Friday, March 19, 2010

Mommy Opens A Can Of Worms

Last night I had a very good, very long conversation with a very good friend of mine. She is someone I can talk to about anything and everything, and we are just different enough that she can provide some really invaluable insight that I wouldn't be able to see on my own.

This particular conversation was centered on my adoption and my new relationship with my birth mom. Let me be clear that my friend was very supportive, and this post is NOT about her. But while we were talking, a thought popped in my head and I want to know what you, my readers (I'm thinking I have one or two...), think about it.

Let me preface this by saying that I recognize that opinions are based on experiences. It's hard to put yourself in another persons shoes. Where I'm coming from is likely a very different place than where you are coming from. But I'm willing to listen and I want to know what you think. So here goes...

Throughout my life, when people find out that I am adopted, their first question, almost inevitably is "Do you know who your birth Mom is?" and/or "Do you want to find your birth parents?"

My answer has always been pretty consistent. It goes something like this, "Well, sometimes I'm curious, but I know who my parents are. The people who raised me."

Honestly, I didn't think that I would ever be found or ever find my birth parents for two very specific reasons. 1) I couldn't believe that someone who gave me up would want to find me or be found. 2) Even if I wanted to find them, I didn't think it was possible without hiring a private investigator, which, to be honest, I really couldn't afford.

The part you need to know now is that I WAS found, and no private investigator was needed. I may share more of the story at a later date, but the details really aren't needed for this discussion.

So before I digress even further, the issue (again) is this: When people find out that I am adopted, almost all of their questions revolve around my birth parents. Ironically, the questions that I really can't answer (or couldn't answer) because I really didn't know much about them.

But now when people find out that I am adopted AND that my birth mom found me, the questions have changed. Now people tend to ask questions about my adoptive mom:

Is she/he upset and/or angry?
How does she/he feel?

And I also get a lot of comments:

But you already have a mom!
But you already have siblings! (I now have a blood half-sister and brother.)
Your family is here.
Why did she (birth mom) try to find you? Tell her to leave you alone!
You don't have to let her (birth mom) into your life, just because she gave birth to you doesn't give her the right...
You have to make sure that your Mom (adoptive) knows that you love her.
You have to reassure your Mom (adoptive) that she will always be your Mom.
I'd be angry if I adopted a kid and their mom got in touch with them...

Let me clarify that these comments and questions come from MULTIPLE people, not just one person. Please don't feel singled out! I am NOT targeting one specific person. If you felt this way, know that you are NOT the only person that felt this way.

So here is what I want to know:
Why does it seem that people are more concerned about my adoptive Mom then anything else, including my right and curiosity in knowing more about where I came from, and undeniably who I am?

Without a doubt, I love my Mom. My adoptive Mom. We can include "Dad" in that statement too. I know full well who raised me, who spent countless nights walking the floors with me, who spent countless hours changing stinky diapers and cleaning up vomit, who drove me to piano lessons and who forced me to clean my room. I know full well who took me to church every week, attempted to instill their values in me, had many a sleepless night when I broke curfew, and who walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. My parents are irreplaceable.

But at the same time, I didn't ask to be adopted. I had no control over the situation. I don't blame my birth mother or my birth parents for playing a role in my adoption. I know that it had to be that way. But I didn't ask for it.

And now that I've been "found", why does it feel like people don't want me to get to know her? Why is the focus on making sure that I don't hurt my parents (the adoptive ones)? Why do I have to fight for my right to know about where I came from? Why does every little action that I make involving my birth mom need to be scrutinized? Why does it matter if it was me or her who asked if we could exchange some pictures? Why does it matter if it was me or her who asked if we wanted to meet in person sometime? And why, above all, do I have to support her (my adoptive mom) in this? WHY doesn't she need to support me? WHY?

I had no choice about being adopted. I can live with that.

But now that I'm an adult, why does it seem like I still have no choice? That people think that I should live in the dark about WHO I AM because I might hurt my parents feelings? Why should my knowledge about my birth parents be limited to less than one full sheet of paper - and even that had incorrect (albeit minor) information on it? Why do people try to make me feel guilty for wanting to explore the other side of my life?

Why do I feel like I have to fight for the right to hear MY birth story. You know, the one that your mom told you about how excited she was when her water broke, or how many hours she was in labor? Why do I have to listen to my adoptive Mom say that she always knows what my brother would do (the one she eventually was able to conceive and give birth to), but she could never figure me out because I was adopted?

Why do I have to reassure other adoptive parent that their child will likely always love them? That their child will always, first and foremost, think of them (the adoptive parents) as their true parents? That their child won't have the desire to meet their birth mom eventually? That the birth mom will be a decent person? I CAN'T make those promises. I don't know the answer. There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to your questions.

WHY can't people accept that I can love BOTH of my moms? Why does it seem that people think that only one mom is of value? Why do I have to choose which mom is more important than another? Because let's be honest here, looking at it from a true biological standpoint, I wouldn't exist if my birth mom never actually gave birth to me. If I didn't exist, then my adoptive mom could never have taught me and loved me the way that she has. I can't be the person that I am without BOTH of them.


Give me some answers here, people. I'm hurting today, and I don't think I should be. If it's true that my parents (however many there are of them) want me to be happy, then why can't people accept the fact that learning about my birth family makes me happy?

Parents who are expecting their second child often wonder how they will ever be able to love that second child as much as they love their first. Miraculously, once that child arrives, there is more than enough love for that child too. And that same miracle occurs for each additional child, be it the 3rd, 4th, 10th, or even 15th child. There is always enough love to go around. A child is capable of loving more than one set of parents. Really!

The more I write, the more frustrated I get, so here's the part that is likely going to cause my computer screen to burst into flames because of all the hate mail I'm likely to receive. If you have adopted a child or are hoping to adopt a child, get over yourself NOW. If you dare to enter the world of adoption, open your eyes and realize that there is a chance, there is always a chance, that one day your child will want to know more about where they came from.

Know that they might not care if YOUR great-great-great-great-great grandparents came to America on the Mayflower - because as much as that relative will be family to them, there is a very good chance that they will also be wondering about the great-great-great-great-great grandparents that they are related to through blood.

Don't tell them that the fact that they are loved is all that matters... because it's not going to hold up very well when they are answering for the umpteenth hundredth time in their life if there is a family history of cancer, and the only thing they can say is "I don't know. I was adopted."

And above all, don't tell them that you will support them in finding their birth parents if you don't think you can handle it. Because guess what? YOUR CHILD is the one who is going to need the support. If you truly want to help them, you're going to need to put your feelings aside, and focus on your child and their needs.

You chose to adopt your child. You said you did it out of love. Now prove it. ADOPTION DOES NOT END WHEN YOU SIGN THE PAPERS.

Help your child COMPLETE themselves IF they have a desire to do so. Maybe your child won't. Maybe they will. Maybe they'll be like me and never think that anything was missing until they actually DO find their birth parents. Because until I was found, I really had no idea of how much I was missing. But there was a hole. An undeniable hole. And you don't know what it is when you are a child, or even as an adult. You think it's normal. But then the missing piece comes into your life, and all of a sudden, you're complete. And you think, "OH MY! Is this what other people feel like all of the time, because wow, I really didn't know what I was missing." Because you don't.

The saying goes something like this, "Adoption: It's about love." Is it really?

Sometimes it feels like it's about an unselfish girl who willingly gives her baby to a loving couple whom she believes will raise that baby the best that they can and provide that baby with things that she knows she can't. And sometimes it feels like those loving parents get some kind of superiority complex that they are wonderful and all glory and laud and honor and LOVE should be given ONLY to them because they saved you from what they deem would be a miserable life. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that sometimes it feels like the general population thinks that the adoptive parents are the ones who deserve all the credit, because you would be nothing if it wasn't for the adoptive parents. Sometimes it feels that way. Sometimes.

I know that every adoption has it's own set of circumstances. I know that I can only speak for myself.

I guess I'm just feeling rather broken because I can't figure out why people seem to think that the "other" part of my life is not important. And why they think they get a say in it.

So there's my rant. Go ahead and rant back, it's only fair.

My feelings as they are described today apply to an adult adoptee who may be dealing with finding their birth parents. I have a different take on the situation if a MINOR child is involved. Also, my specific circumstances involve a CLOSED adoption. I think that the situation is different if you are involved in an OPEN adoption (which is what happens a lot these days). Since I am not a minor child, nor have I adopted a minor child, and I can only speak to how I felt when I was a minor child. I have NO experience with a OPEN adoption either, so I'm not going to say much about that either. Every situation and experience is different, and I can only share MINE.


  1. I noticed that none of the questions you listed as being asked was "How do YOU feel about the situation?" That's too bad. :( I hope you get the support you want and need from all your parents and friends.

  2. I know you are overwhelmed with feelings and emotions, which is good and normal. You have a lot of hurt and questions that you have denied yourself all these years which are flooding to the surface. Even as a child, you had to wonder about your physical parents.

    The reason people ask you about your birth parents when they hear you are adopted is that they are interested, it is different, an interesting tidbit about you, and there is a natural curiosity. Of course it isn't mean to offend. Their heart naturally goes out to what they think of as a poor scared mom who loves her child so much that she is willing to give the child to the best home possible. I think moms who put kids up for adoption are heroes.

    But once they know that the mom is able to see the fruits of her decision, their natural concern is for the one who raised you, because EVERY mom deserves credit for this, and the idea that she would be secondary to the birth mom is sad. They want to be assured. Your story of moms loving more than one child is a great example.

    Nobody wants to be unkind or to hurt you. They are just curious. It's like the questions twins get, or any other unusual life.

    My brother's sister didn't find her mom until it was too late. I know one adopted mom who disses the birth mom and tells the child she just provided "the womb" for nine months. How disrespectful! You know pregnancy is more than that.

    This is too complex a situation for you to be able to put into soundbites. Choose a couple of strong, faithful friends and talk it out until you come to terms with it. It is a big deal. It affects who you are. I think part of the problem you have with these questions is that you aren't comfortable with the answers. Find yourself, find the answers. Good luck. I love you. (Your third mom)

  3. I didn't realize you had a blog or that you wrote so well... :) We'll have to chat sometime soon. -JS&S :)

  4. I agree... you are a great writer and should author a book. And awesome blog.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your insight. I don't know why people ask the questions they do, but I know you should do whatever you darn well please. :) And I agree with your responses to the questions, even not knowing it by my own experience.

    --April Larsen

  5. Oh. My. Gosh! I cannot believe that your birth mother contacted you! How exciting and scary and intriguing and so many things all rolled into one. Wow. How exciting that you'll have the opportunity to meet her in May. It's so interesting how you describe it - it's not something you sought out, but once the opportunity was here, you didn't realize how much it would mean, to fill the holes you didn't realize you had, to answer those questions you didn't realize you'd like to have answered.

    I love your ranting - vents and rants are good, because life is complicated and frustrating many times over.

    Peoples' reactions in general kind of suck. I've learned as I've experienced my struggles in life (death, infertility, autism, depression, etc etc) that most people say the simplest, most obvious and superficial things that come into their brain. Most don't filter it or think about it, but just talk. I like how the Book of Mormon says to "comfort those who stand in need of comfort" NOT "dispense advice to those who stand in need of comfort" and NOT "make judgmental comments to those who stand in need of comfort" and NOT "give your opinion to those who stand in need of comfort." Complicated situations require more thought and more tact and more concern, if you ask me.

    So, hell, yeah - you're bugged when people make all these assumptions on *your* situation like it's a black-and-white thing. Like it's a simple thing that can be boxed into one pat answer. It can't. It's a complex issue that is made even more complex by your personal situation.

  6. As far as my experience on the adoption specifics. . . I love how you rant that adoptive parents have to "get over themselves already!" You're exactly right. It's called putting your child's needs first and foremost. The birthmother had to "get over herself" by choosing her child's needs over her own, and adoptive parents need to do the same. I have no doubt that many birthparents have to continue to do that their entire lives, as their feelings of grief over placing a child for adoption, no matter how loving the adoptive parents are, they consistently have to tell themselves that in spite of their personal pain to do so, the child's needs must be first. On the flip side, the adoptive parents must put their child's needs first and always, their entire life long, that their child has another history, another story, and they can't just ignore that part of them.

    That said, it's easier said than done. I can absolutely admit that I have *ALL* the selfish feelings about wanting Isaac to be MINE ALL MINE! I get completely jealous when I've talked to his birthmom and hear her wanting him to be a part of their everyday lives. I get nervous when I think that that, like he's choosing her over us. But, having talked to his birthmom, I know she struggles too. Even though it was the right choice, her jealous feelings have been there and made it difficult for her to feel 100% peace about the adoption.

    That also said, I still *do* what I think is right. I talk to Isaac about his birthmom, I show him pictures, and she met him when he was 5. I will continue to do that, and continue to tell him how much I love her for who she is. I like that we're facebook friends so we can keep in touch easily. But, I also like that she lives in Phoenix so that there's no just "stopping by."

    I think with your mom and her adoptions, in general for that generation the entire process of adoption was less-open minded and had alot more social stigma attached. In particular (hope this isn't TMI) with her multiple miscarriages, she was probably pretty over-sensitive by the time her adoptions came through. If she is sensitive about anything related to you having contact and/or a relationship with your birthmom, she's definitely putting her insecurities first, and ignoring your very valid needs as her child.

  7. Final comment. . . it is absolutely helpful to adopted minor and major children to know that birth parents and adoptive parents all came together to give you life - because they ALL love you. You're absolutely right that there is enough love to go around, and isn't that the beauty of it all?

  8. @informalpenguin
    You know, I think I have been asked that a few times - but it's always later in the conversation. But hey, since you asked... :) I really am excited about this. It's a roller coaster ride - absolutely no denying it, and it's confusing at times. But wow, how awesome is it that my Birth Mom found me!

    Interesting insights! I think you are probably right on the money about why people react the way they do. I have also considered the possibility that when I have talked to people about it, I may not have been upfront with my feelings, and that could have played into how they reacted. Meaning, there is a good possibility that a reaction to, "Guess what! My Birth Mom found me!" might be different than, "So... my Birth Mom found me." It's an interesting experience, for sure.

    Now that you've found me, you need to share YOUR blog with me. Thanks for sharing your friends story with me yesterday. I hope that they are able to work things out. LDS Social Services offers counseling, though I can understand why they might want to use someone else.

  9. @April Larsen
    I write well when I am upset or under a lot of pressure to meet a deadline! You flatter me, I can't even imagine attempting to write a book! I agree with you, I should do what I want! How come it's so hard? LOL! In all seriousness, I am taking steps to do what I want and not worry so much about what other people think. Worry is too strong of a word, but saying that I don't "care" about what others think isn't exactly true either. I need a happy medium!

  10. @LisaFisa
    I just knew you'd have something to say about this, and I am so glad you did! I love your take on "Comfort those who stand in need of comfort." I laughed for several minutes over that one. I know I could use some lessons in how to truly comfort someone, because I think I am guilty of dispensing advice!

    You know, I felt a little guilty about my "get over yourself" statement. In all honesty, my parents are handling it fairly well, better than expected at least. I think that I got frustrated that "other people" were so worried about my parents, that I perhaps thought that maybe they knew something I didn't. I do have to reassure my Mom quite a bit, but I get that. But it also isn't all about her. I guess I don't mind us reassuring each other, but since I wasn't the one who put me in this situation, I kind-of think that I should be the one getting more support in my attempt to puzzle things out. Does that even make sense?

    By the way, my pseudo half-sister lives in Phoenix. Road trip? :)


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