Adoption: A Parenting Gauntlet

By: Keith

     

I was adopted when I was 1 ½ years old.  There aren’t many relevant details to tell about the actual adoption right now apart from the fact that I know (now) my biological mom loved me but couldn’t keep me, and my adoptive parents acquired me (and my twin sister) and grew to love me.  My life has been pretty good.  I’m a normal-ish person.  I have no major quirks, and I’m happy.  However, hindsight makes trials appear less rigorous than they actually are; I might have turned out differently had not a few things gone my way.  Of course, everybody has hurdles in life that they must overcome; it’s not like adopted kids have it tough while everybody else gets a free ride.  But, it is true that adopted kids have special issues that most kids will never have to deal with.  They have to resolve feelings that most other kids don’t, and that necessitates a different kind of parenting.     

      

Abandonment:  Adopted kids probably will, at some point in their lives, feel abandoned.  We ask ourselves questions like, “Why didn’t my original family want me?” Then, lacking an answer they (we) continue with more self destructive questions.  “What did I do wrong to be given away?” “Am I a burden to my new family, too?” “Could they also want to get rid of me?” “Am I inferior, a subclass of kid, because I’m adopted?” These questions persist and fester in our minds, creating all sorts of unwanted emotions.  It’s because of these feelings that adoptive parents, unlike other parents, need to prove their love. Adopted kids thirst for acceptance and love in a way other kids don’t.  Abandonment issues can be mitigated, but only with lots of hugging and many reassurances.  There is no unspoken contract between parents and their adopted kids as there is with parents and their biological children.  After all, biological kids wouldn’t have any reason to think they belong anywhere but with their biological parents.  The assumptions are reversed with adopted kids.  Instead of assuming we belong, only to question when shown otherwise, we assume we don’t until proven wrong.       

      

Distrust:  Adopted kids don’t inherently trust their new parents in the same way a biological child would.  We aren’t dogs who parents pick up from the pound, happily bouncing back home ready to be fed and washed.  Trust must be earned systematically. When parents adopt a kid, they’re told by counselors to not keep secrets, to always, as a matter of course, be open and honest about the adoption.  That advice is sometimes ignored.  If the adopted kid never finds out he’s adopted then it’ll be all peaches and cream.  But, that’s a huge calculated risk, because if the kid does find out that his parents have been lying to him, and there are a million ways he could discover it, it’s almost guaranteed to ruin the family.  I’ve talked to dozens of adopted people (now grown) who have found out, only later in life, that they were adopted.  Most of them, when they discovered the truth, severed ties with their families.     

      

Curiosity:  Adoptive parents will always have to live with the possibility that their kid is going to seek out his biological parents.  But, as I think my family (both sides) can attest, there was no ill will in my search.  I didn’t look for my biological mom because there was something wrong with my adoptive parents.  I looked because I had a burning desire to know everything.  Other kids get to know where they come from.  We should, too.  My Wilcox family reunions were always a little weird for me. Stories about our history would go like this: “So and so came from England X hundreds of years ago, and that’s where this farm came from.”  Honestly, I never paid much attention to those stories because I wanted to know where I (not anybody else) came from.  Adoptive parents have to endure the uncertainty that one day their kid could be doubly hurt in his search, or that they could lose their kid to that search.  Give adoptive parents credit for signing up for the emotional roller coaster.  It’s an extra stress with which other parents don’t contend.     

      

Insecurity: I was painfully insecure throughout my childhood.  It wasn’t until my first son came that I felt like I had any purpose in life.  Before Neil the only other biological marker I had was my twin sister (granted, that’s a pretty huge one) who was adopted with me.  Having no, or just one, biological connection can make a person feel pretty alone in the world and, thus, insecure.  I think, with both Neil and Alan, I felt what mothers claim to feel upon seeing their newborn kids.  It was an instant kinship.  Before Neil came, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted.  I felt like I could have died and it wouldn’t have mattered much.  That’s exactly how important it is to feel needed.  While everybody has those feelings, adopted kids frequently have them by magnitudes.     

      

Inferiority:  We can feel unworthy.  When we’re toddlers we struggle with abandonment.  But, when we grow up, abandonment mutates into inferiority.  After a while the feeling dies that we’ll be given back to the adoption agency. But, that’s when our more mature minds start on a new, equally pernicious, course.  We begin to compare our adopted lives with the lives of our non adopted peers.  They look like their parents; they have the same quirks and facial expressions.  We start wanting to be like the other kids, to have the things they have.  That’s how we start to feel inferior.  A good example:  One of my friends is a PhD in Biomedical Engineering.  His dad, his mom, and his whole family are super smart people, and similarly accomplished.  When he was growing up there was no question that he, too, had the raw brainpower required to be whatever he wanted to be in his life.  Adopted kids don’t have that.  Intelligence is encouraged through one’s environment but it’s born in genetics.  I felt other kids had claims on intelligence and success and that I was just an impostor.  My insecurity fed my feelings of inferiority.  It wasn’t until I met my biological mom and my long lost sister that I knew that I, too, have a claim to the good things.     

      

My life, like that of many adopted kids, is turning out to be happy and meaningful.  But, it could have turned out differently.  The edge, the point over which lives are irreparably scarred, lurks more closely for adopted children.  When adoptive parents realize the great responsibility they have in their charge, the extra parenting that is required of them, and they take it up and bear it, the rewards are there.  If, however, adoptive parents expect trust and security as a matter of legal right – disaster.  Any couple considering adoption should do it with the knowledge that their lives will be rewarded through hard work, not genetic or legal determinism.  It is not the child’s responsibility to mold himself to the family.  It is the family’s responsibility to accommodate the child.  When trust is earned, insecurity and abandonment issues overcome, curiosity sated, they will have become successful parents.  They will have saved a life and made the world a better place.     

 

90 Responses to “Adoption: A Parenting Gauntlet”
  1. Maureen Sklaroff December 5, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    That’s a lot for a kid to deal with. When I was younger, I had two different boyfriends that came from families with a mixture of biological and adopted children. One was a biological child and the other adopted. I think that can be even harder than just being adopted. In both of these two cases, the parents clearly favored the biological children. The one boyfriend, who was a biological child, said of is adopted sister, “She never made an effort to fit in our family.” I felt really bad for her, the family was all total Aryan, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, while she was dark haired and eyed. She stood out like a sore thumb and her adoptive parents didn’t do much to make her feel like she was a part of the family. I don’t know why they adopted her in the first place. They weren’t a very kind family (hence, the emphasis on EX-boyfriend).

  2. Dennis P December 5, 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    Keith, I had a plan for a blog topic tonight, but I read your post first. After reading this, I just don’t think I can put anything together. It’s really powerful stuff. I have NEVER given this subject even the slightest thought, and it makes what I was going to write seem really insignificant. Good work.

  3. Otter321 December 6, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    I could never imagine what all you had to deal with and how hard it was. I want to say though that you came through it great. I think you are a very smart, thoughtful, and kind dude. You are alwasy open and honest with yout thoughts here as well. Thanks.

  4. Mirah Riben December 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    Thank you! This is an important and well written article. i have shared the link! You might consider publication in a magazine such as Adoptive Families or Adoption Today. Adoption parents need to know this! they need to recognize and these issues and help their children. They need to giver adopted children “permission” to grieve.

    It’s interesting that someone who apparently knows you said they never knew you were dealing with all of this. That’s what makes it all worse is that adoptees tend to deal with it all in silence because of fear of being rejected yet again if they mention of these feelings or thoughts and “offend” their adoptive parents. Many feel an onus to be”grateful.” These issues all become a great big elephant in the room that are seldom addressed in far too many adoptive families.

    And yes, being part of a family in which there are biological and adopted children is different and perhaps more of a burden, as is not looking like anyone in your family.

    Mirah Riben, author, THE STORK MARKET: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry

  5. Heidi Wilson December 6, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    Your story could be mine with the exception of a realted sibling. Even down to the change in you with the birth of your first child. When my son was born, it was a marvel to actually be related to someone. I too have met my birth mother and 3 sisters she kept after me.

    Thanks for putting this all into words.

    Heidi

  6. Cody December 6, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    Thank you for writing this. I will do my best to implement this knowledge into my relationship with my adopted daughter.

  7. Von December 6, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Hi Keith, great post, hope it reaches many.
    We can never make assumptions in the world of adoption, although we all have some common ground.With that in mind having a twin must for you have meant a biological connection that many others don’t have and perhaps have helped you both at least in one area.

  8. Kelsey December 6, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    When my mom was 15 she had a baby that she knew she could not take care of. She was able to find what she believed would be the best possible home for him. Reading this gave me some insight on what my older, unknown brother might have felt. Every day I wish that I will have a change to meet and and possibly have him as a part of my life.

  9. Pamela December 6, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    I agree with most of what you stated. As parent of an adopted child, I have been completely open and honest with my son since he could understand. He is showered with love, he knows “God meant him to be with us” and his birthmother writes to him now and then. I was there when he took his first breath. He is a healthy child, and I will support him, along with my husband, to visit his birthmother if he wants. I respect his wishes if he does, and would not be threatened by this endeavor. I do not agree that all adopted children should be treated in a “special” way. Being sensitive to certain feelings that may arise that are different from a biological child, yes. Otherwise, it’s not healthy to do so. I have two biological daughters, and actually, I feel closer to my son.

    HOWEVER! I did want to speak as a woman who came from a very unhealthy family in which my mother was kind enough to tell me how she wished I had never been born. I prayed that a friend of mine’s parents would let me live with them. I feel that there are MANY, MANY parents that should not be parents, and to state that being a biological child might give us one up on an adopted child is wrong. I wish I had been adopted, because I know I was WANTED! What my husband and I went through to adopt our son was harder emotionally on me that giving birth to my daughters. It was extremely difficult at times, unsure about the outcome, and the first year we had him we didn’t know if the mother would change her mind. I missed that first year of bonding with my son in a way a mother should.

    All in all, good parents that adopt and are open, supportive, loving, and nurturing, are doing more that MOST biological children ever receive in my opinion. Besides, we had to go though tests to prove we were capable of caring for a child. Financially, emotionally, ensuring our marriage was solid, we had a nice home environment, and FBI background. Geez, I wish all parents had to go through what we did. I know for a fact my mother and father wouldn’t have qualified to adopt any children!!!!

    • Keith December 7, 2010 at 1:55 am #

      Pamela: Not being an adopted kid yourself, it might be hard for you to understand what we’re actually thinking. Keep in mind that being the parent of an adopted kid is MUCH different than actually being adopted. Your argument has a major hole in it. My parents also went through a rigorous screening process to get me. So, how come I still had all these feelings? Is it because they were bad parents? No, and I never said it was. What I said is that being adopted is emotionally taxing no matter who your parents are. We ALL go through these things, regardless of who our parents are. This is about us. This is about an unavoidable consequence of not knowing who we are. Your kid, even if you think otherwise, has some of these same thoughts. It has nothing to do with how good a parent you are, and I’m sure you’re a good one. It’s entirely about them.

  10. Mara December 6, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    The fact that most adoptive parents participate in the act of sealing their adopted child’s birth certificate and having one issued with their names as the biological parents.

    When you teach your children not to lie but you lie about the most basic information about their lives, your credibility as a parent is diminished. Why do adoptive parents play along with this erasure of another person’s identity? Is it for ownership? I certainly think so.

    I’m 41 years old and I still can’t see my original birth certificate. This is discrimination and it continues because the market is driven by the money of prospective adoptive parents who want their names on the piece of paper.

  11. Mollie Malone December 7, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    Thank you so much, Keith! It really makes me feel better to read what you wrote! I have been trying to say all those things all my life… only to have them disregarded by my adoptive parents. Can you suggest a good support group for abused adult adoptees? I believe associating with other adoptees will be very therapeutic for me. God Bless You, Keith! You are an awesome wirter.

  12. Robin December 7, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    Keith,
    You are absolutely right. Pamela has experienced adoption but she herself is NOT adopted and that is completely different. I have found that many adoptive parents make comments like this. It is not about them, it is about the child. The adoptive parent who grew up in his/her biological family does not have the issues of an adoptee. Also the parent made a choice to adopt a child and the child had no say in the matter whatsoever. And it is the child’s life that is the most dramatically changed.

    This is the best article I have ever read about the effects of being adopted on the adoptee. I hope you will try to get more mass circulation for it such as in magazines as suggested by Mirah Riben. It is very important information!

  13. Elena December 7, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    I was adopted by my stepfather when I was 18, more of a symbolic move than anything since he had been my father since I was 6. I knew and saw my biological father up until I was 13 and I myself told him that I did not want him around and that I had a father who earned my trust. Of course I felt at first abandoned by my birth father when I was a younger child, but the man who raised me treated me with so much love and care that I neither missed nor concerned myself with the man who fathered me. I knew for sure what I was leaving behind (a man who physically and emotionally abused my mother and gave up custody of us in the divorce then moved away) I feel lucky that Mom found my Dad (Michael) and it has made me strongly support adoption especially of older children rather than babies and hope one day to adopt a child of my own. :)

  14. Jessica Hunter December 7, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    I was adopted when I was just 3 days old and I have gone through everything mentioned here (except the whole twin sister thing). Thanks so much for writing this, I found it strangely comforting. :)

  15. Andrew December 8, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    WOW…. ‘i thought I was the only one who felt like this”… Thanks for putting my feelings into words… I was given up for adoption at 3 days, and placed with my (adoptive) parents at 8 weeks. I found my biological parents 39 years later. While I’m fortunate to have had the life I had, I also wonder how I would have turned out had I been kept…

  16. Roy December 8, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    So what’s an adoptive parent to do with all of this??? It looks like it’s a no-win situation.

    In reassuring the adopted child that he does indeed belong, is cherished, and will not be abandoned, that very reassurance is invalidating those very feelings the child is having. It’s the same as telling the child his feelings are insignificant and unfounded.

    On the other hand, acknowledging those feelings gives them validity, and thus tacit support.

    I can tell you tis as an adoptive father with biological children as well, my feelings and commitment to my adoptive children is as strong, if not stronger, than my bio children.

    Perhaps that’s the source of the confusion between the child and the parent? The child cant understand why the parent dismisses his feelings, and the parent, with such strong feelings for the child, cannot understand why the child has these feelings?

    So we both always have these fears. The child fears another abandonment, and the parent fears losing the child to the birth parent. Furthermore, the parent begins to be identified with all the negative feelings associated with the abandonment. They become the villian, rather than the compassionate parent.

    A very insightful article, however, it offers very little in addressing the issues except for their identification and acceptance that many adoptees have these issues.

    • Keith December 8, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

      Roy: Do what you want with it.

  17. Lore December 8, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Mara, we don’t “participate willing in a lie”. We adopt a child and that is how it is done. The way of the world. You need to start advocating and pushing for change if that is how you feel, but there is no need to belittle and demean the adoptions of others whom you can know nothing about.

    Sure, our past colors our futue, but at some point you decide what your future will be, what have you decided?

    I can’t speak to your feelings, you cannot speak for mine or any other adopted child.

    • Keith December 8, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

      Lore: sorry, I thought you were talking to me — didn’t pick up on the salutation. Sorry.

  18. Lore December 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    hmmmm . . .I sense I missed a fiery reply . . .

    Keith, it was well worth the read. I am the (foster) adoptive parent of an almost 3 year old. He has been in my home since released from NICU at 3 weeks and almost 6 lbs. I’m naive enough to think he won’t go through these issues, he!! I went through them as a stepchild!

    We have contact still with his biological father, a visit tomorrow in fact, and I struggle with how it should all work.

    My biggest struggle right now is him referring to himself as Daddy. Now as a single Mom, there is no Daddy in our home(I had hoped that wouldn’t be the case, but sadly in the end it now is). I do however think every child deserves a “Daddy”. As soon as my Little Man starts hollering for Daddy when he is in trouble or tired, my common sense and my sense of being okay with it go out the window. He can have no concept of who Daddy is or what that even is from weekly 1 hour visits for the last 3 years . . . can he????

    Anyway, wanted to make sure you knew I found your post valuable reading, if you have an opinion on my situation, promise not to fire back!

    • Keith December 8, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

      Lore: I’ve gotten a few unpleasant e-mails recently about this post, so I’ve been jumpy. I’m really sorry because i know I’ve been defensive the last few days (since publication) but I know I need to just let it be because it’s inevitable that people will disagree with me and that just the way life goes :-). I know my parents probably weren’t too pleased about me coming to see my biological mom, but they had the good sense to let it be and let be what would be. In the end everything turned out well. I have an awesome relationship now with my biological family, and my parents have seen that my relationship with them hasn’t been diminished. But, I’m certainly not naive enough to think all reunions work out for the better. That’s one reason I think adoptive parents should be commended for accepting the responsibility of parenting while all the while remembering that they were not the original parents.

      Anyway, thanks so much for your comments. Please come back again :-)

  19. Von December 8, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    Often so true Pamela but however hard it is with parents, biological children always know who they are, where they came from and their heritage etc.Most adoptees do not have that security and foundation in their lives, it makes a world of difference.

  20. Robin December 9, 2010 at 4:49 am #

    Roy,
    You sound like a very caring person. Most people can love an adopted child as much as a bio-child. I know I could. But love is not the issue. The issues Keith is talking about are part and parcel of BEING ADOPTED. An AP’s love cannot repair these issues or eliminate them.
    Also, I wish APs would stop being so insecure. You are not long-term babysitters, you are the child’s parents. Even after reunion (where a child will find similar looks, mannerisms, maybe interests and talents) most adoptees feel that their AP’s are their “true” parents. Very few walk off with their first family never to be heard from again.

    And Keith,
    You are so lucky to have been raised with a twin. What a blessing to have had a bio-relative your whole life. Interesting though how most people would be appalled at the thought of separating twins yet have no problem with separating a baby from its MOTHER. Food for thought.

  21. Robin December 9, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    Keith,
    I am sorry you are jumpy and defensive because of some of the replies you’ve gotten. You are speaking the TRUTH. Adoptees need to be silenced NO LONGER. Even if those in happy, dappy adoptoland are offended or dismissive.

  22. v December 9, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    I just found your website, and I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts & feelings about these adoption issues. As an adoptive parent (my daughter is now 4-/12), I really appreciate hearing from the perspective of an adoptee. Your blog post is helping me to better understand what my child may be going through, her feelings and reactions to situations, and that helps me to be a better parent to her. You are right – adoption is not an “easy” road by any means, but for all the ‘trials’ that we [all] go through, I would not change this experience for the world. I love my daughter unconditionally for who she is – she has the strength, determination & ferocity of a lioness, and also has an innate care-taking instinct that is so tender and full of love. I wish that I had more answers for her as to who her biological mother & father are. I will share with her all of the information that we do have, and I would help her in any way to seek out and find her biological family, assuming she will want this one day. Though I am not an adopted child, I understand this desire to know where one has come from.
    I have a question for you: I would like to create a Life Book for/with my daughter – a book for her to celebrate her life – to show her in pictures & words who she is and where she is from. Do you have any particular thoughts/insights/suggestions as to what to include? What would mean the most to an adopted child? Any ideas that you may have would be appreciated. Thank you in advance.

    • Keith December 10, 2010 at 8:00 am #

      V: That’s a great idea, A life book! Really, the mere act of preparing something like is a big deal to an adopted kid. My parents always took a bunch of pictures of me and my sister (like all parents do of their kids) but it would have been really meaningful to have something like what you’re describing. It’s not a common thing for parents to do, so just the gesture in itself is what I would have wanted when I was a little kid. There are a lot of questions that probably will never be answered that your kid will probably want to know, but what they want most of all is just the recognition that they’re different and that there’s nothing wrong with being different. In fact, making a life book is exactly the sort of recognition that an adopted kid would appreciate. It’s not what’s in it that matters, it’s just that you’re doing it in the first place. Very well done!

  23. Campbell December 9, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    I’ve just read all four of your posts on adoption and I’m touched. I feel most touched by your bio mom’s posts because the adoption part I know of, being adopted myself. I don’t feel all the things you felt and feel, but, it would be weird if I did. Each circumstance of adoption is unique to all. Change one tiny factor and the experience is different. I am very curious about what it would be like to raised as an adopted person with a biological twin. That in itself is not a very common experience, I imagine.

    I come away feeling like you have great respect for parents who put their children ahead of them self and feel finding homes for children you cannot give what you think a child needs, CAN be a selfless, loving act. I feel this way too.

    I was initially, and continue to be, struck by being biologically related to my son. Prior to recently meeting my bio mom, he was the only person I’d ever known who was biologically related. I really can’t say we’re close for that reason because I think I’d have been this kind of a mom whether I was adopted or not. It’s also why I use the term “biological”. It’s the most meaningful word to me when differentiating between my two sets of parents. I notice you use it too. I do call my bio mom by her first name but then I was adopted as a newborn. She didn’t do any out of womb mothering. Another area where your and my experiences are very different. I don’t really think of her as my mom-mom.

    I didn’t have a burning desire to find bio people but I did feel strongly about letting my bio mom know I was ok and always hoped hard she was ok too. I was not opposed to meeting her or anyone else but was slightly wary. I wasn’t sure I wanted or needed any more family than I already had! I used to say if I could let her know I was ok and see a pic, I would be satisfied. I won’t bore you with the details of how our eventual meeting came to be, but I did question if my motives were selfish curiosity and because of that I have allowed her every bit of privacy she wants. My existence is unknown to anyone in her life but her and I understand and will always respect and protect that. Do you think you would have been ok with this, like I am?

    SO sorry to make such a long comment but I don’t often find adopted people online that I have much in common with. My life too is happy and meaningful but I also know it could just as easily have not turned out this way.

    “It is not the child’s responsibility to mold himself to the family. It is the family’s responsibility to accommodate the child.” YES!

  24. Deeters December 10, 2010 at 6:14 am #

    I am the adopted mother of six children. My husband and I have adopted our children from the fostercare system. When we adopted we were given papers that show everything about our children. It tells about birth parents as well as other relatives. It tells about abuse and drugs as well as much more. By law that has to be done before the adoption. Our children ranged from age 18 months to 15 years old when we adopted. All our children know they are adopted and know the birth parents name. We are very open and answer what we can. Some information can not be told until they are old enough to understand or to be able to deal with what they will read. As for why my children have new birth certificates and new names, it is not to hide their birth parents but to hide my children until they can protect themselves from what happened to them. Out of my six children two have contact with a birth parent. Both parents are drug users and I allow them to call as long as they are able only because they are not child abusers. Even as young as 5 years children miss something in their life when they are adopted. As an parent I would do anything for my child but I also know that some things I can not change. We do what we think is best for our children and we may not always be right. I can be there and support my child and let them know that one day they will read what all I have and then if they want to find their birth family I will help them. This is something all my children know.

  25. Denise Dunham December 10, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    Wonderful write up Keith. This may be a long response and I apologize, but I have to tell it… I am adopted and have adopted as well. I can’t say I have experienced all of the feelings you shared, but I remember twinges of them, especially as a teenager. I was adopted at 3 months. I do not know my birth parents. I only know that like my parents my bio mom was a teacher and my bio father was an engineer. They were not married nor planning on marrying and decided, thankfully, that adoption was best. I have never sought my bio parents, nor intend to. However, I did at times wonder if I had siblings and about where I came from.

    I have known all of my life that I was adopted and my parents belief that I am even more special for it was instilled in me. As a kid I was proud to be adopted, especially when they did something weird or embarrassing. :D I’m even more proud of it today. Growing up I picked up their personalities and quirks and beliefs and even look similar to them. Even though I can’t claim blood relation to the history of the families I still feel they are mine. Being adopted has created a broader sense of what family is to me. Family is more than blood, it is a knowingness and understanding of those we cherish and love more than ourselves.

    Has my life been peachy-keen? Nope. Has it been harder because I’m adopted? No again. It’s been normal with it’s ups and downs. I had my bouts with my parents and wonderful moments too. Still do. I have never thought would I be different or my relations be different were I not adopted. I am who I am be it by influence or genetics and am happy with that.

    I now have a family of my own. A wonderful husband who I have been married to almost 10 years and two beautiful sons. After 2 miscarriages and a long time trying to get pregnant we finally decided it was time to adopt. We had always “planned” to have a child then adopt. God had other plans. I had been studying up on adoption for a year before we set our minds to doing it. We decided to go through the state because 1) I was adopted through the state, 2) there are children ready and waiting and 3) private was just too expensive.

    We wanted a child no older than 8. Hey, we wanted SOME play time! Last year, perhaps 1 month after we were approved we got the call. I was weary of fostering because I couldn’t give a child back nor was ready to deal with the parents. Selfish I guess. (God bless foster parents that do!) We were ready for a 5 to 8 year old. So when the call came that there was a 3 day old baby boy in NICU they’d like us to foster-to-adopt we went into shock, joy, relief, lots of tears, and OMG we need a crib! Our families helped us scramble to get ready. The day after the call we went to the hospital. We met the most beautiful, tiny baby boy we had ever seen. He took our breath away. Right then we both felt this absolute knowledge that this was OUR child and we were HIS. He CHOSE us. We were by his side for 2 weeks for almost every feeding time.

    His circumstances meant adoption was pretty much certain. Mother left him at the hospital…Drugs in his system from her…False information so she couldn’t be found. People say they can’t believe anyone would give up such a beautiful child. I say she didn’t. She gave him to a family that can give him more. Now that’s love; hard love. And he will know that when he asks. It was the best, most unselfish thing she ever did and I am eternally grateful to her.

    One and a half months after we brought our son home I found out I was pregnant. How ’bout that swift kick! Some people actually had the audacity to ask if we were still going through with the adoption. Of course, he’s our son! On April 30th of this year we adopted our son and a month later had our second. They are already have this amazing bond. No they don’t look alike, but they are definitely brothers. I am already imagining the trouble they’ll get into together when I see the twinkle in their eyes and the little grins they give each other. I also know I am one blessed Momma!

  26. Lynn Mayo December 10, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

    I was alone in my bathroom. The walls were painted white and the floor was an off-white laminate tile. The feel of the room, as well as, my bare feet made the room seem all the more cold. And there, lying on that small apartment sized counter were the results of my pregnancy test. The short, white stick had a small pink line reflecting my results. It seemed to turn into a sullen, disappointed face looking back at me, as if to say, “Shame on you. You did it again.”

    It was true. At age twenty two, this was the second time I had irresponsibly brought a child into this world. I wasn’t careful. I was a lonely girl, thirsty for love. I was created as a valuable treasure, yet didn’t know it.

    Now, as the reality of my situation and the consequence of my sin overwhelmed me, my whole being seemed to flood with anxiety. Waves of shame and fear moved through me like powerful ocean waves engulfing a shore. My thoughts and my heart raced as I frantically tried to find a solution to my desperate situation.

    Because of my beliefs and personal convictions about life, I had never thought that abortion was an option. Yet, thoughts of an easy way out of a terrible situation flooded my mind.

    Three achingly long weeks passed. And during those lonely days and sleepless nights, I would often think about placing my baby for adoption. But, because I was uneducated about the subject, I would quickly dismiss it. I didn’t think I could handle the weight of giving my baby away. Television talk shows made it seem so negative and disastrous.

    As I turned back toward my faith, I drew closer to God for guidance and direction. I felt impressed to answer these questions of myself: As a single mother, could I handle raising another child alone? Is it fair to my current son or to the new baby if I tried? Are my feelings holding me back from making the right choice? Are my fears of other’s opinions holding me back?
    One day I reluctantly told my close friend about my situation. She informed me of a young girl, Sarah, attending our church, who had just placed her baby. She recommended I talk to her.

    I was anxious to hear Sarah’s story and, it seemed, Sarah was excited to tell it. She and her mother, Ann, came to my small apartment to share their experience, and their tears, with me. When they left and I closed the door behind them, I whispered a thank you prayer to God. I finally had the answer I needed. I was ready to proceed with adoption plans.

    The next day, I made a call to Nebraska Children’s Home. I met, that day, a woman named Deb. For the next several months, Deb would become my mentor and friend, and, eventually, the kind of counselor I would like to become after I receive my masters in Social Work.

    Deb educated me on the different types of adoption, which are as follows: Open, semi-open and closed. I chose semi-open. It seemed to be an appropriate balance to the journey of picking the parents I thought would best raise my baby, receiving updates on him as he grows and, yet, keeping a healthy distance so that he would never feel uncomfortable in any way. I also found that these steps helped me process my grief most efficiently.

    During my meetings with Deb, I would read about my choices for couples waiting to adopt. I would see their pictures, read their answers on their questionnaires and carefully consider who would be the best choice for my child.

    I finally chose Lee and Theresa. I was drawn to them because of their faith, their sense of humor and the way they spoke about each other; I could tell they were really in love.

    The time finally came when my little boy miraculously came in to this world. And, for a brief moment, he was mine. I had the privilege to give him the first name he would receive. I picked one that had great meaning and reflected the way I felt about him. His first name was Jonathan, meaning “a gift from God” and his middle name, Leif, meant “beloved”.

    For three incredible days I was his mother. And during that time, I dealt with the emotional highs and lows of saying, “hello” to a baby I would soon have to say, “goodbye” to.

    He had so much beautiful, black hair. I cut a small locket for my own scrapbook.

    I would hold this soft, warm bundle close to my breast, and feel his heart beat. He smelled so sweet. Of all the aromas of the most beautiful flowers and perfumes, his sent was by far the loveliest. I would inhale deeply and treasure the moments we had together alone. My heart overflowed with that unexplainable love a mother feels when she holds her baby for the first time. But, I also felt the paralyzing agony a mother feels when she is about to lose that baby she loves so deeply.

    It was August 15, 1993 and I can still remember how the sun shone so brightly through the window of my room on the east side of the hospital. I hated the sun that day. But, looking back, I can see that the bright clear sky was a message of hope for a brighter future. I watched out the window at how small everyone looked going about their business. I wondered, “Would the world stop if they knew what was happening today?” As I turned back toward my empty hospital room, all the emotion that had not hit me, finally gripped my heart. I felt faint. And on that day, I felt as though I would rather die, than to lose my baby.

    Deb arrived about that time and said, “Well you look good this morning!” Just then, all that built up energy came bursting out, and I began to weep. She was a comfort to me. I needed a caring friend with me at that moment.

    The baby and I were discharged from the hospital and around 10:30am, Deb drove us toward NCH. The drive seemed too short. My tears continued to flow like an endless stream from the deepest ocean. In my memory, I held my son close to my chest the entire drive. But, months later, while speaking to a group of couples waiting to adopt for the first time, I realized my memory was incorrect when Deb told me that the baby was actually strapped in the car seat. But, that’s not how I remember it…

    The car pulled into the small parking lot on the south side of the building.

    As it did, I said to Deb, “I can’t just walk in there & hand him over.” Deb looked at me with a look that seemed to say, “You didn’t change your mind, did you?” I assured her that I was still confident in my decision; I just needed more time. Deb replied, “That’s ok. Let’s go in thru the back door, into my basement office. You can sit there until you’re ready; I’ll let Lee & Theresa know.”

    Her office was small and rectangular with barely enough room to turn around in. She offered me a chair & it felt good to be able to sit down with my baby. I rest there with my eyes closed; warm tears quietly streaming down my cheeks, wondering when I would feel confident enough to walk upstairs.

    The next voice I heard was the soft & gentle voice of my Pastor, Kenny Schroeder. He simply said, “I’m going to sit with you.” And he did. Quietly and patiently he waited. Everyone waited. And at just the right moment, Pastor Kenny began to pray for me. As he did, a peace began to fill my heart like I had never experienced before. I felt as if God had just wrapped His arms around me.

    I was then ready to go upstairs. As we did, the thought of this being the last time I would hold my baby filled my mind. I felt as though I was in a dream, trying to get to a door at the end of a long narrow hallway; the floors are slanted, the room is twisted and the door at the end seems continuously out of reach.

    Here we were, standing at the French doors to the room I had been in so many times before. It was my favorite. I had requested it for this day. The design and structure of the room was like that of an old colonial home. Furniture, like that of the eighteen hundreds, graced this room which was trimmed with wide, oak moldings & a fireplace.

    When Lee and Theresa saw me come in, they stood up from the sofa and quickly moved toward me, meeting me half way across the room. I could hear them sobbing under the arms that embraced me. I loved that they waited for me to hand him to them. They never made a move to take him from my arms. I kissed my baby the last kiss I would give him as his mother and placed him in the longing arms of his new mother. Again, it seemed another wave of incomprehensible peace came over me.

    During our time in that room, Pastor Kenny shared about how the Bible speaks of adoption. He said that it was customary for the adopted child to receive the same inheritance as the first born. That spoken word made me feel a sense of relief. I had thought that God must have been so disappointed in me.

    He also said, “I’m thinking of a song, but I can’t remember all the words.” He began to sing some of it, when my friend, Ann, Sarah’s mom, so elegantly & poetically finished it. There were no instruments, no backup singers, just simply her beautiful voice singing this beautiful song. Lee broke down weeping uncontrollably as his emotions overtook him. Iin response, everyone in the room wept, as well.

    Theresa said it best when she said, “This is a bittersweet day, because out of your grief came our happiness.”

    I have never regretted my decision to place my baby for adoption. My choice wasn’t based on my emotions. I didn’t “get rid of” or “run away from” my responsibility. I took responsibility to love my child enough to give him a chance to live & struggle and succeed in the most nurturing environment possible.

    Since the day I placed Jonathan, whose name is now McLean Andrew, I have been able to reunite with his family several times. Even play a part in the adoption of their little girl two years later.

    Friends have often seen us together & asked, “How do you do it?” And I tell them, “I know I gave birth to him, but somehow, maybe supernaturally, there is no longer that deep connection. It’s like seeing my friends and their children.”

    This is not the end to this story. There are so many opportunities that have branched from this experience. Maybe I’ll write about them another time. But, in closing I would just like to say that, though this may have been the hardest day in this chapter of my life, it produced a hopeful future for many people. I am so proud and honored to be part of something so grand.

  27. Joan December 11, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    As the parent of an adoptive son and 3 stepkids who don’t have consistent contact with their bio mom, I really appreciate the insights you offer in this article. Thanks so much for sharing!

  28. Robin December 11, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    @Lynn Mayo
    I hope your son is as happy about the adoption as you are since he didn’t have any say. I also hope he doesn’t mind being separated from his brother.

  29. Vicki Leon December 14, 2010 at 5:40 am #

    I was adopted at 10 days old. I knew from as long as I can remember that I was adopted. My parents read me a book called The Chosen Baby. I can still see myself in bed being read too at bedtime; I must have been 4 or 5 and telling my mom when she read that book to me to put our name in the book. I wish I still had it. I always thought I was special and was and still am open about the fact that I was adopted. I guess I was lucky. The one thing old friends say is your parents loved you so much. Thats what they remember. My dad is now gone and my mom is 88. I had parents that gave me a great life and I never felt insecure, abandoned or wondered about my bio parents. When I was little I do remember people saying to my mom; she doesnt look like you? I felt bad for her but it didnt bother me. She would say I looked like my dad. (thankfully I didnt get his nose!) I never looked for my bio parents, dont have a clue about the circumstances that led to my adoption. Never really cared to do it. I do get what you feel when you have children. My daughter looks exactly like me. That was something I never experienced . Funny thing is ,although I am blonde and blue eyed (my dad was too, my mother has olive skin and brown eyes), people say how much I remind them of my mother! Its a blessing to adopt and be adopted by parents that choose you. They raised me and loved me. They are my parents. As far as snarky posts, if they are not adopted what does their opinion matter anyway.

    • Keith December 14, 2010 at 8:54 am #

      Vicki: I’m with you on that feeling. People who aren’t adopted really can’t know what it feels like. I respect all opinions of course, but being adopted is really something a person has to have experienced to have the insight necessary to empathize with it.

  30. John TM December 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    And now for a word from the loyal opposition.

    I’m 44 years old. I was adopted at 9 months old and really never saw my adoptive parents as anything other than my parents. I never experienced much of any of this at all. No sense of abandonment, no inferiority. In fact, my parents told me that I was more special because i was “chosen.” There was never the moment I was sat down and told I was adopted, it was always an accepted truth. So maybe that helped.

    I’ve never really felt the urge to meet my birth parents for any reason other than getting some medical history. Never even felt anything was missing. I have parents, and they’re just fine. Sure, It would be great if it turned out to be my birth father was Paul McCartney or something and has been searching for me for decades now. It would also be great to win the lottery. I’ve also felt that searching for my birth mom might be an intrusion on her life, maybe into a family who doesn’t even know she gave up a kid all those years ago. Honestly, I have no interest in looking into it.

    All in all, I think i grew up pretty healthy and happy and don’t feel I had any real issues that other kids didn’t have. I know plenty of people with far more anger/hatred/animosity towards their birth parents than I’ve ever had to my adopted parents.

    If anything, my adopted status has helped me see myself as an individual who doesn’t NEED to “belong” to any group or clan or organization. I’m just me. Happy and healthy and (hopefully) mentally stable.

    I hope you find whatever happiness you can, Keith. Just remember, there’s lots and lots of miserable people out there who grew up with their birth parents. Some kids deal with alcohol parents, others deal with over-attentive control freaks, others still grow up in really great families, and far too many grow up in horrific nightmares. Being adopted doesn’t really make us “special,” it just means our issues might be different. But it’s really no harder or easier than just being any human being who has to confront this thing we call life.

    JTM

    • Keith December 14, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

      John: actually, I have no idea what would make you think I’m not happy. In fact, I’m very happy. This is not a diatribe about a miserable life. I think you misunderstood.

  31. Debbie Mumm December 14, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    I am a mom of 5 kids…the 2 youngest adopted from Russia. They were 5 and 11 when we adopted them 6 yrs. ago. Adoption issues have stressed out the older one a lot and we have had behavior issues with her because of them. You can read our adoption stories at my blog— http://www.adoptioncoach.wordpress.com

  32. A Happy Adoptive Mother December 14, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    I too am an adoptive parent. I do not treat my children any differently than the other. One is adopted and one is biological. I am open about the adoption and everyone will always know about the adoption. I do not see any difference in feelings between the two. They both know they are loved the same by my husband and I. They both love us too.

    I think somewhere along the line, some of you, not all, but some of you have had other issues arrise that has caused you to question your feelings and you may be using your adoption as the reasoning for why you are questioning it. I think all children go through times where they feel unwanted or treated unfairly, but that doesn’t mean it was because they were adopted or not adopted. I think if you dig deeper into the reasoning as to why you felt the way you did, when you did, you will find there were other things that actually caused those feelings and it may not really be because you were adopted. I know many people who were adopted. Those feelings can be caused from friends getting to do more things than you. If you didn’t get to be involved in a sport like another friend or sibling. Well, maybe your parents had a different income at times or maybe job changed or more children did not allow them to have the free time they had a different times through out your childhood. There were times my older sisters got more than I did or got to go place while I had to stay home. But my parents had more money at different times in our lives. I felt left out and it almost made me hate my parents at times and I was not an adopted child. When I turned 18 my mom moved to another state and said I could go with if I wanted. I chose to stay, that was my own decision, but I still felt abandoned. So having said that, I think anyone can feel what you have felt, adopted or not. Sorry that is just my opinion.

    However, I do think people bond differantly. I find myself closer to strangers or people I hardly know, yet I find myself pulling away from people I do know and some times even family. Sometimes it’s because of things going on in my personal or work life that doesn’t allow me the time they require, or because they cause stress on me and sometimes because I do no like the things they do or the way they talk. Yet I bond strongly with my husband and kids. We do just about everything together. I think adoption is built best with love and trust like you said, and I do think the child should know they are adopted, but I don’t think you favor one over the other. If you favor the adopted child, your biological child can feel left out or abandoned just as easily. “Mutual respect” I guess it what I am trying to say. We keep in contact with my sons biological parents and I get pictures and updates about them and his other biological siblings. He will always know who they are. I do think it will help him adapt as he matures into adult hood. It never hurts to have an extra set of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or siblings. I say it just makes us a bigger family all the way around. We treat them like they are our family. We even send Christmas gifts every year to them.

    And please don’t take me wrong, I do think some adopted children are treated differantly than biological children. My brother inlaw in adopted and his adoptive mother never told him she loved him. And in those situations I can see how ones feeling may reflect what you said. But those loved and treated as equally as a biological child will grow up just as fine as any other child. And a child should know why they were adopted and I think it should be up to the child if they ever want to know who their biological parents were. I think they have a right to know. I feel it would allow those who yern for that information to have closure too. And if they choose not to know, it should be their choice as well. If my (adopted) son ever told me he didn’t want anything to do with his biological parents or family, I would cut off all ties with them. I am fully behind my son whatever he chooses. I really felt unsure how my husband and I would deal with keeping in touch with our sons biological family, because when something is mine – I do not like to share, especially my kids. But in this case I feel it will help him to have it out in the open and for him to know them. His biological mom may have given birth to him and loved him enough and was selfless enough to give him up to have a better life, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am his real mother, because I am the one who is raising him and loving him and taking care of him and opened my arms to him to love him as if he were my own. I love my sons equally as much as the other one. And I thank God everyday for allowing him to come into our lives. I can not picture my life with out my sons in it.

    I do feel sorry for you to have had such feelings growing up, but I doubt your biological or your adoptive parents if they truly love you, ever wanted you to have those feelings. Just like my parents didn’t want me to hate them because they were able to do more for my sisters than me at times. I hope you see my perspective on this.

    One other thing, my parents were divorced when I was 13 and are now remarried and have been for years. Both people my parents married had children of their own and we were all teenagers when they remarried. I do feel at times that my step parents do more for their own biological children than for me or my siblings, but I feel my own parents do more for me and my siblings than they do for their step children. Again, the way people bond can be so different from one person to another. So I feel I have a perspective on both views. Good luck to everyone involved in adoption, whether you are the person who is adopted or the person adopting. I think all we can do is our best, follow your instincts, no one has the perfect answer or way. Just love one another, that’s all one can expect from another person.

  33. Robin December 15, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    ” Good luck to everyone involved in adoption, whether you are the person who is adopted or the person adopting.”

    The experience is totally different when you are the person who is adopted or the person adopting. The person adopting actually has a SAY in whether or not to become an adoptive parent. Even if s/he is dealing with an infertility issue, no one is forced or even expected to adopt. The person who IS adopted, actually did NOT have any say in the matter and it is his/her biological family history on both sides which is wiped out. And whether or not the aparents love their adopted child as much as a biological child isn’t really the issue.

    • Keith December 15, 2010 at 9:41 am #

      Robin: You just said the most important thing that so many adoptive parents miss. Being an adoptive parent is great, and it has it’s own story to tell, but it isn’t even remotely the same as having been adopted. It’s a little like the “I have black friends” argument. Having black friends doesn’t give a person much insight into actually being black. Likewise, to say “I know what it’s like to be adopted because I adopted a kid” doesn’t really give much depth on this particular side of the issue. Naturally, this is not the whole story. What I wrote is only looking at it from my unique perspective. But, that’s a perspective upon which transposition of related subjects doesn’t apply. No disrespect to adoptive parents, but that’s a different discussion.

  34. Robin December 15, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Adopted children are not chosen. They were simply the next baby in line matched with the next potential adoptive parents. An adopted child could have been put in a different family, given a different last name and a different family configuration. A child’s bio-heritage , the people whose genes s/he carries and who s/he is connected to ancestrally and historically, cannot be changed.

    • Keith December 15, 2010 at 9:51 am #

      Robin: I completely agree with you. A lot of adoptions work out great, but a lot of them are a product of chance. They work out because the personalities of the adoptive parent and the adopted kids aren’t so far apart. But, that’s a matter of chance. There’s a lot to be said for what you call, bio-heritage. My biological mom and I are very similar despite being separated for 30 years. My adoptive parents and I get along well, but I’ve known since I was a kid that we don’t have the same genetic personality markers. It’s a big issue that gets ignored. You can’t just change someones personality with an official decree. True, indeed.

  35. Amber December 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm #

    As an adoptive parent, I REALLY appreciate this article. We took custody of our son the moment he was born and are in an open adoption; as a result, I hope that the issues he’ll need to deal with aren’t as severe as some other adoptees. However, I know that my role as his mother is different than my role as the mother of a biological child would be. Thankfully, our agency made sure we were thoroughly educated on stuff like this before approving us to adopt. I’d move mountains for my son without hesitation. And I couldn’t agree more that all potential adoptive parents need to do their homework and have master’s degrees in flexibility, empathy, compassion and patience.

  36. Amber December 15, 2010 at 7:55 pm #

    @Robin – The idea that adoptees are simply matched with the next people in line is not always accurate. It used to be that way almost universally. But since the vast majority of adoptions these days are open, birth parents often choose the adoptive family themselves, as was the case in our adoption.

  37. Jen December 16, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Hi Keith~Thank you for your article. I’m glad you were so open about your experience on what adoptive/foster parents should expect.

    The only thing I respectfully disagree with, is your comment above to Robyn. I mean, yes, it’s true that foster and adopted children do not choose to be adopted. They do not choose their families. This is true…but at the same time, this is also true of biological children. We can’t choose our parents. My family is a conservative, tea partying, Rush Limbaugh following, meat eating, uber-religious family. To their dismay, I couldn’t be farther from their belief system. I probably would have been much better suited with a liberal tree hugging family from Northern California, but they’re who I was born to and there isn’t anything I can do about it, and that’s fine. It makes for interesting reunions. What I’m saying is, there are many examples of children who feel like they don’t fit in with their biological family. Nobody can choose their parents. They can, however, decide what they want to do with their life and how they make their way through their trials and tribulations.

    As I said earlier, thank you again for your article. It’s a wonderful guide for parents who are considering, or have adopted.

  38. Robin December 16, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    @Amber,
    Yes, you are correct that are things have changed with open adoption. However, the idea of the adopted child being “chosen” does more often refer to those born during the Baby Scoop Era and that’s what I was referring to. Sorry if there was confusion, times they are a changing.
    @Jen,
    It is obvious you are not adopted. The family a person is born into could have been a different one, granted , but once you are born into a family it is an unchangeable fact. And whether or not you are similar or dissimilar to your bio-relatives is not the point. An adopted child could be PLACED in one of many different families. For example, s/he could be PLACED with the Smiths in Milwaukee, the Jones in Tampa or the Johnsons in Seattle. The adoptee does not share ancestry or roots with any of these families. Also, yes on a very theoretical level anyone could have been born into a different family but they were not. The family one was born into IS your family where when you are adopted you could have been placed with anyone. This is a difficult concept for those raised in their bio-families to understand and difficult to explain. Once someone is actually born into a family s/he does share roots with that family. This is very different from an adoptee who had a VERY LIKELY chance of being placed as a member of a different family.

  39. Robin December 16, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    Jen wrote”This is true…but at the same time, this is also true of biological children. We can’t choose our parents…. but they’re who I was born to and there isn’t anything I can do about it, and that’s fine”

    Even if you had been BORN into a different family, you would still have been BORN into it. Being Adopted is a very different experience. Adoptees do not share ancestry or genealogy with their adoptive families. Nor do they share looks and often they have very different talents, interests and personality traits as well.

  40. Scott Woerner December 17, 2010 at 7:36 am #

    Adoption involves 3 parties, the adoptee, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents. I totally support my adopted boy’s search for their birth parents. And I also want to respect the rights of birth parents to their own privacy. Opening up birth certificate info opens up birth parents to potentially unwanted contact from adoptees. A painful but possible truth that needs to be considered. That’s why registries may be a better option, as well as some sort of third-party facilitation of initial contact.

    • Keith December 17, 2010 at 8:07 am #

      Scott: That makes perfect sense. I used a third party when I contacted my mother. I had already determined that if she were to reject out reunion that I would walk away. The third part was essential in maintaining that privacy for her. But, as I suspected, and not to sound big on myself or anything, she had been wanting a reunion as well. But, that’s an excellent point you bring up — one I agree with.

  41. Robin December 17, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    “Adoption involves 3 parties, the adoptee, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents”.This is true, however, the adoptee is THE ONLY ONE WHO NEVER HAD ANY SAY IN THE MATTER. I do not believe the natural parents have a right to privacy from their own child. To deny an adult adoptee the right to know his/her biological family, medical history, etc. is downright cruel. Actually, the only other group of people in American history who had to live this this were SLAVES (literally, as in the 19th century). What natural parents have the right to, is to decide with whom they will have relationships. Everyone in this country has those rights and are protected legally from issues such as stalking (in the event that something like this would happen.). Also, in some cases an adoption does not even take place and there is no sealing of records. The child still maintains his/her birth name and information on their bio-family. Furthermore, the relinquishment papers that first parents sign do not state anywhere that s/he will have anonymity from one’s biological offspring. You might want to take a look at FirstMotherForum.com which discusses at length how most first mothers do not even want anonymity. There have been instances where continued contact is not wanted and both adoptees and first parents can end the relationship. It is a patent disregard of an adoptee (who was probably a helpless infant at the time) to never have any say in whether or not s/he can have any information about or contact with the people who created him and brought him into the world.

    Sorry Keith, but I do not agree with you on this one. I think adoptees have been pawns long enough in this situation and do deserve rights when they are adults. When an adoptee is an adult, s/he does not need a third-party to decide who s/he is allowed to know. Just like other adults who were raised by their bio-parents do not ever need a third party or consent to know who another person is or to contact them. I do not mean to imply that anyone should trample on another’s wishes and desires about reunion. Absolutely not! If someone says to back off, then back off. And to tell you the truth I have been involved in many reunions and have never known anyone to disregard the other person’s wishes. Adoptees do need to be treated like adults when they ARE in fact adults.

    • Keith December 17, 2010 at 9:25 am #

      Robin: I wouldn’t want to have contact with anybody who didn’t want to first have contact me. My biological mom has just as much right to reject me as anybody. Gotta admit that I wouldn’t like it, but if that’s the way she had wanted it, then I can’t force a relationship that isn’t there. I’m not saying I don’t have a right to know who she is and my history, I still think I have a right to that information no matter what. But, It’s wrong to force yourself on anybody, regardless of who that person is. So if my birth mom had had issues that caused to to reject my sisters and I, well, I guess there’s nothing I can do about that but accept it. Thankfully it wasn’t like that.

    • Keith December 17, 2010 at 10:12 am #

      Robin: I think I should clarify what I was talking about there. I believe all adoptions should be open (unless there’s some sort of serious problem that necessitates the child being removed because of some danger). An open adoption would make the subject of reunions moot, as everybody would know everybody. But, at least with adoptions from my generation (and before), where adoptions were almost all closed, reunions can be emotionally taxing. I think a slower approach is best in those circumstances. A third party is helpful in making the introduction. But, I think we mostly agree, in that we both think this wouldn’t be an issue at all if all adoptions were open. I would never advocate an adoptee remaining in the dark about his circumstances. We all have a right to our history and heritage. But, in terms of physical reunions, it’s best to take it slow when there’s a, in my case, 30+ year interlude.

  42. Robin December 17, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    I agree with you, Keith. And that’s what I said in my comment that no one has the right to force an unwanted relationship. I do believe, however, that everyone has the inalienable right to know who their biological parents are and to have a medical history (this can be life or death). Some of these one-sided consent/third-party registries sound like they are treating ADULT adoptees as if they are children.

  43. Tyler December 18, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

    Keith,
    My partner and I have two sons (both adopted) and are about to adopt another wonderful boy in January.
    Your article was not only heartfelt, but also extremely informational. THANK YOU! You have answered many of the questions we had. Our sons all came from different genetic birth families and our adoption arrangements vary. (One is fully closed and one is wide open, the third will also be open).
    Thank you again for expressing yourself so well.
    Tyler

    • Keith December 18, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

      Tyler: You’re very welcome. Open adoptions are great as they give kids some of the background that I lacked growing up. However, open adoptions aren’t always possible. Not to worry; I’m good evidence of a happy guy who got through all the uncertainty. You’re kids will be so grateful that you’re spending time wondering how they’re feeling. Thanks for reading, Tyler!

  44. Jackie December 19, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    To those of you who have adopted you are a wonderful person who has given someone a chance who might not have gotten one. I was adopted at 2 months old myself. And to tell you there is something you can say or do to those of us who have been adopted I dont think you can. I had a wonderful mother who I lost in 07 and have been lost ever since because she was my best friend. She told me what she knew but that doesnt replace the emptiness we have inside. I always say my life is a puzzle and Im missing one piece of my life. I myself have children and when you go to the dr’s office and have to fill out these questions about your history its hard on us because most of us dont know our history. Does cancer run in your family>? Well I dont know I do know I just lost my mother to cancer but she wasnt a biological mother. So that is all Keith is trying to say. And when you go to school as a young child, kids are mean I dont care how well you raise them to do right and wrong. Wrong seems to always come out when they think they can hurt another child. I was always teased about being adopted by other classmates. Comments like I wasnt good enough because my mom threw me away. And yes I would go home crying and my mom and dad would hug me and comfort me by saying that I was chosen where their mom didnt have a choice she was stuck with what she has. But it doesnt change the fact that these kids were hateful.And to say I wouldnt hurt my adoptive parents feeling if I were to find my bio. mom well I cant say that and be truthfully. They have always supported me and if I wanted to find my bio. mom they would back me up 110 percent but deep down I knew there was going to be a pain I put them threw. Who wouldnt go threw that truthfully? And about close records haha mine are open and I still cant touch them so it really doesnt matter if they are open or closed we have no rights. And if the bio. parent decides they dont want to be contacted well then you are just up a creek without a paddle. So to go to court and ask for this permission do I really want to know the answer? I could be hurt more when she says she doesnt want me to know anything. So yes to the question is it a lose lose situation for the adoptive parent. And I dont mean that hateful but like Keith’s said all of us who are adoptive have to go threw this thing in life and the only thing adoptive parents can really do is support us while we go threw it. I had the most wonderful parents in the world and wouldnt ask God for a different life. But I still have to wonder everyday if certain things in my life could happen cause I dont know the answers to these questions. One questions for the adoptive parents Have you realize how many people are doing family trees this day in time. To find out who their relatives where or if they were powerful or different things like this. Tell me how would you help us to do this? I have made trees for my own family but the buck stops short at my door cause I have no idea. And when your child comes home and has to do this for a project and you cant help them tell me exactly how you would feel or how you would help your adopted child get threw this?
    Thanks and god bless all the people who have adopted and gave us adoptees a wonderful life :)

  45. Robin December 19, 2010 at 5:36 am #

    @Tyler,
    I feel so sorry for your child in the closed adoption. He is going to have such a tough time seeing his siblings have knowledge of and possibly contact with their birth families while he will be left in the dark. The child in the closed adoption will probably feel so hurt and rejected. I am sickened at how parents get to make these painful choices that so profoundly affect the child’s life.

    @Jackie,
    It is just another slap in the face to adoptees that genealogy has become such a popular hobby. However, for the purposes of this school project, since it really won’t have any bearing on your child’s future chances in life, I say just put in the adoptive family’s ancestry. Sure this isn’t “technically” your child’s ancestry but why not just roll with the punches and not make a big deal out of this. It might make you both feel better. And besides you and your child ARE members of your adoptive family. And if anyone has an issue with your kid’s family tree, too bad for them.

  46. Greg December 20, 2010 at 1:03 am #

    Robin, enough already. You’ve made your point in here over and over and over. You obviously have a lot of things to work through and maybe there are better places to do that than this forum. Yes, you bring up some very valid points, but their power gets severely diminished when you feel the need to comment on every single person here who has a different viewpoint than you. The great thing about comment threads like these is you get so many unique perspectives. The lousy thing is sometimes one person thinks the point they’re making is SO important, that they have to hammer it in repeatedly. Let it go.

  47. Marianne December 23, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    ~ Lived ,Understood & Agree…I Only wonder if it is…the having Lived, that may be the only way with this…that One Could Understand* ~

  48. Mary Kohn December 24, 2010 at 12:32 am #

    I’m going to try and make this long story as short as possible. I was adopted when I was 6yrs old. I was removed from my biological family when I was about 3 1/2yrs old. I remembered my biological parents and I wasn’t an only child, however, I was the only child taken from the home. I was kept in a basement with no family interaction. I was scared, isolated and unhappy. My paternal aunt was the one that turned my mother in for neglect/abuse. My biological dad was in the military and was rarely home. When he was home, I do remember he tried to protect me as best he could. I spent time in foster homes and an orphanage before being adopted. It only got worse from there. My adoptive mother was a real life “mommy dearest”. I was abused by her until I moved out after I turned 18. I spent my entire childhood in fear and unloved. My adoptive dad never abused me but as I see it now he was a coward. I grew up knowing I had a biological brother and sister out there and I missed out on all those years with them. I’m now 53 yrs old and have still have a lot of issues that I don’t think I will ever rid myself of. I suffer from severe depression and have very little self worth. The only good thing that has happened in my life is my biological daughter. She’s my life and she’s mine!!! I raised her totally different than the way I was raised. They say that an abused person tends to abuse their children but I strongly disagree. It’s a choice and I chose NOT to abuse my daughter. I didn’t like being abused so why would I want to do that to my child? I’m on my 3rd marriage and must admit with all my “issues” it takes a special person to understand me and all my quirks. I have reunited with my biological family. I didn’t want a relationship with my mother (even though she did) but I’m close with my siblings and have another baby sister I didn’t even know I had. I’m also close with my maternal and paternal aunts and uncles and wish so much that I could have stayed with my real family. I still fear rejection to this day. It amazes me how a parent has the power to totally destroy a child and that stays with them for life. I hate it when people say “get over it”. Uhm, sorry, but I have too many bad memories and that’s a lot easier said than done! I personally believe that it is NOT possible for adoptive parents to truly love a child that’s not theirs.

    • Keith December 27, 2010 at 9:41 am #

      Mary: I’m very sorry for everything you’ve gone through. But, thank you so much for sharing it. You having written it down will help other people. This blog has become a conduit for people expressing what they’re feeling, and nobody has done that more sincerely than you. Thank you again for sharing it.

  49. Greg December 24, 2010 at 8:29 am #

    Mary…wow. No one should’ve ever gone through what you did. You were let down by so many people in your life and I’m honestly happy you made it through and found happiness with your daughter. I can’t even imagine being hurt so much by both your biological AND adoptive mothers. But in no way could I or would I ever support your last sentence. True love, whether it’s for a child, sibling, friend, spouse, whatever… comes in so many forms and doesn’t have limits. I’m guessing your adoptive mother had some pretty bad reasons for adopting in the first place, just as people can have bad reasons for wanting biological kids. I’ll finish by saying one more thing that I believe totally and unequivocally: The capacity to love, to truly love another human being, is based on the person, and not on their status. I’m truly sorry that you didn’t get to discover what others have felt. Best of luck to you and happy holidays.

  50. Robin December 24, 2010 at 8:32 am #

    @Mary Kohn,
    I am so sorry for what you went through. I do think you bring up a very important point for any single mothers who are considering adoption. Just because a couple chooses to adopt does not mean that they will give the child a loving and secure home. I think our society has a myth that just because adoptive parents go to a lot of trouble to adopt that they must be some kind of uber-parents. Actually, there is just as much divorce, abuse, alcoholism, etc. in adoptive families as there is in bio-families.

    I do, however, have to respectfully disagree with you on one point. I do believe that adoptive parents can love an adopted child as much as one that is biologically theirs. I know I could.
    Again, I am so sorry for your experiences. My hurt goes out to you.

  51. Robin December 24, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    Correction to last line, I meant to write:
    My heart (not hurt) goes out to you.

  52. Mary Kohn December 24, 2010 at 9:14 am #

    @Greg…thank you for your comment and showing me a different perspective. I’m sure if I had a different outcome I may not be so negative about adoptions. My adoptive mother should NEVER have been allowed to adopt but I guess back in the 60′s it wasn’t as big of an issue as it is today and wished it would have been. You are right, true love has no limits. I know there are many good parents out there and I was wrong to say adoptive parents are incapable of that. It is thanks to them that unwanted children find loving homes. I would have loved to experience that kind of love. Merry Christmas to you and yours and all the best for you in 2011 !! Thanks again Greg !! Would you like to be my counselor?? Seriously !!!!

  53. Greg December 24, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Merry Christmas to you too, Mary :-)

  54. Katherine Toon December 24, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Wow. A lot of great reading here. I thought Keith’s article was full of insight for adoptive parents. I’m the mother of nine. . .5 bios and 4 adoptees. One thing that is very important is the degree of trauma that a child suffers. This can alter their ability to relate to anyone, but especially parent figures. It’s like trying to tame a feral cat. If the child has never learned to trust adults or has been abused by them, how can we expect them to trust anyone? If they have been kept in tentative care situations where they cannot form emotional bonds in the first three years of life, or if they have bonded and then been removed from those they are bonded to, they still suffer serious trauma. This alters the development of their emotions. They are anxious, expect rejection, fear abandonment, and live in a survival mode. This delays their other areas of development so that they are often behind others their age socially or in academics. All of these factors play into their feelings of not belonging or fitting in.

    So there is “being adopted” and then there are all the layers of problems that often beset children who are displaced in the first place and then eligible for adoption.

    Many times, couples who adopt are also grieving their own inability to produce a child and this adds another layer of feelings that cloud the home life for years.

    We have loved our adopted children and our biological children have loved their adopted siblings. But as Keith says, there are feelings our adopted children have that our bios don’t. Certainly they have tested us to the limit over and over. One of our children was 9 when he came to us and he had suffered severe neglect and abuse. He was seriously attachment disordered which kept him from feeling our love, even though we loved him deeply.

    Our daughter came to us at five weeks of age and she was able to bond well. She gave us some trouble in her teens, but many bios do that! Another son came at 9 months of age and he too was able to bond even though it took him two years to show signs of attachment. He is now 14 and doing well.

    Adopting is certainly a different way to build a family, and it requires a different brand of parenting, but it’s wonderfully rewarding. We feel we have been enlarged in so many ways by raising other people’s children as well as our own. It hasn’t always been easy, but some of our bios gave us a run for our money as well! Parenting is full of risks and challenges, but we would not trade our kids for anything in this life. We are truly rich.

    We have no objection to our children seeking out their bio families after they reach the age of 18. We tell them as much as we know until then but we feel contact can be confusing until they are mature enough to deal with the possibilities that surround contact. We have even searched and found the grandparent of one of our adopted children and we stay in contact. We also stay in contact with the families of siblings of our adopted children.

    I can’t leave God out of our equation as many times we hit our knees when we came to the end of ourselves. The answers came and the children thrived. We read books. We attended workshops. We went to counseling. We went to doctors. We just kept reaching out until we got answers.

    My advice to all parents is this: Never give up. Preserve your relationship with your child (adopted or bio) at all costs. Seek answers. Find supportive people.

    Lovers, money, youth, come and go, even spouses do too, but your children are always yours. They are the greatest gifts in this life.

  55. Jennifer December 26, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

    Mara, I am so saddened by your comment to this post. It is completely wrong and unfair that you are not able to see your OWN, original birth certificate. I think that should be a basic human right for any person.
    With that being said, I must tell you that I am the adoptive mother of four children. They all have different biological parents, they were born in four different states, and each of their birth parents chose us before they were born. I have had each one of my children since the day they were born. They are all open adoptions (with different levels of openness that was determined by the birthparents, not by me.) I just wanted to tell you that I have never seen ANY of my childrens’ original birth certificates. That is something that adoptive parents have no control over. In fact, to get a birth certificate for each of them, my husband and I had to wait until the adoption was final, and then send proof (final decree of adoption) to the state where they were born and request a birth certificate. The birth certificate came to us with our names on it as the parents. We are not allowed to even SEE the original birth certificate, much less have a copy; which is actually silly because our adoptions are open and I know the full names of their biological parents- so why NOT let us see it or have a copy? Whatever the reason, the birth certificate that we received had our names on it. It has nothing to do with a sense of ownership. Legally, I don’t see any other way it could be. I must have a birth certificate (proof that I’m their mother) for them to enroll them in school, make medical decisions, get insurance, get a passport and travel to foreign countries… If I weren’t seen as the true and legal parent on an official state document, how could I provide any of these things?
    I believe you are not forbidden to see your original birth certificate because of anything that an adoptive parent did. It must have been either because of the laws in the state at the time you were born, or the wishes of your birth parents, that your original birth certificate be sealed. I don’t know if you have met your birthmom, or if that is even something you desire. But I would wonder if she may possibly have an original copy- she would have been allowed to have one, your adoptive parents were just simply not allowed and not given the choice.

  56. Jennifer December 26, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    Robin…
    My 4 adopted children WERE chosen. We were not just simply the ‘next in line’ and we wouldn’t have taken just ANY baby. We CHOSE each other. (Yes, we have turned down other birth parents because we didn’t feel a connection to them.) I view adoption as more of a marriage than a divorce. Through our adopted children, my husband and I are eternally connected to their birth parents who we love very much.
    ***details- 4 domestically adopted children, none are biologically related, born in 4 different states, adopted at birth, open adoptions, yes they already know.

    YOU too were loved. YOU too were wanted. Your adoptive parents longed for, cried for, wished for, and prayed for YOU to come to them. YOU are their dream come true. YOU have a birth mother that still thinks of you and loves you. You may have different ideas of what love SHOULD look like, but she loves you. She loves you. She loves you. She loves you. KNOW that.

  57. Robin December 27, 2010 at 5:31 am #

    Jennifer, I can hear the concern in your comments and I appreciate that.
    If another child had been born 6 months before me, my aparents would certainly have taken him or her. Actually, there were several other possible families for me so it was pretty much a crapshoot where I ended up.
    Telling me my first mother loved me is the understatement of the century. I am well aware of that fact. She never “chose” to give me up, she was forced (her words) because when I was born it was a huge stigma to be an unwed mother. She said she never got over it and that it ruined her life. She and I should have stayed together. We would both have been better off.

    Regarding OBCs, the adoptive parents don’t have any say in how the law works. It can’t hurt though to try to get a copy of the OBC before the adoption is finalized. Your child will appreciate it.

  58. BigMomma December 27, 2010 at 9:19 am #

    I am a Foster/Adopt Mom, and although this is not my experience, you write beautifully, and what touched me is how God worked to bring you all together and to cover you with peace.
    There are a lot of adult adoptees who still, even after reading your beautiful story, have anger and resentment towards their bio mother, and cannot let go of their feelings of abandonment. I feel for them – I wish instead they could close their eyes and place themselves in your arms on that day and know how much letting go (“abandonment”) can be LOVE.
    Life is complicated. Each of us has our own story, but I believe God gets us where He wants us to be, and that is our real purpose in life… being who God wants us to be where we are.

  59. BigMomma December 27, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    @Deeters: thank you for sharing your experience. We have also been Foster/Adopt Parents, as well as Bio Parents. We have pics of bio parents and half siblings, and know where they are for the most part. One adopted child looks like us; one does not. I can understand what Keith is saying as I read about these feelings before adopting, written from an adoptee’s point of view.
    What I can contribute from our point of view is that our adoptive experience is really so very different from private adoptions, but the abandonement issue still plays a part. “Why could they not ‘get better’?” (kick the drug habit) “Why didn’t my first foster family adopt me?” (this from my daughter who was placed with us at four months old)
    What I have learned from this blog is that no matter if we are adopted or not, we all experience abandonment issues if we are prone to that. I haven’t read all the replies yet, but there is one just a little earlier from a woman who was adopted and did not have these issues of abandonment. I was not adopted and still as an adult sometimes feel abandoned by my parents!
    Keep searching for yourself, and someday you might find a glimpse of the man or woman God intended you to be – and if you recognize yourself at that moment, hold on, it will be quite a ride!

    • Keith December 27, 2010 at 9:38 am #

      BigMomma: VERY well said! Thanks :-)

  60. BigMomma December 27, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    The reply about “abandonment” really being “love” was @ Lynn on Dec 10

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