I genuinely believe the topic of newborn bonding isn’t brought to light enough in the adoption arena, so I decided to share my adoptee feelings about it based on my lived experience.
Just because someone adopts a child doesn’t mean the adoptee will bond or attach to the adoptive mother or father. It’s also essential to note that not all adoptive parents can form an attachment or bond with their adopted child. This is not guaranteed, yet it’s almost always dismissed as if it isn’t a real possibility.
When we assume the newborn infant will bond with the adopters, it has damaging impacts that can affect the adoptee for a lifetime. Unfortunately, this is real and has issues that will cause severe anguish throughout the adoptee’s life, at no fault of their own. The difference between adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents are that adoptees didn’t make this choice; it was made for us. Expectations to bond with a foreigner were placed upon us at no agreement of our own.
Let’s also put on the table that we know that anytime a biological mother and a child are separated for whatever reason, a trauma occurs. We know that the separation from our biological mothers can leave a broken bond that sets the tone for all the future relationships we will have. We know that our relationship to maternal attachment impacts how we parent our children and practically every area of our lives.
If we research bonding and attachment theory, we know that the maternal bond with our biological mothers is the most critical bond we will ever have. Attachment to our biological mothers is the cornerstone of infant development and is the sounding board on how we bond and connect with the world around us.
When we know this, we have to assume that when the maternal bond is disrupted for whatever reason, it can harm the child. If you do the research, you will find that neurology, psychiatry, biology, genetics, and psychology hold valuable scientific findings to infant prenatal and perinatal development.
The Importance of Early Bonding:
“Human babies are born very dependent on their parents. They undergo huge brain development, growth, and neuron pruning in the first two years of life. The brain development of infants (as well as their social, emotional, and cognitive development) depends on a loving bond or attachment relationship with a primary caregiver, usually a parent. Infancy is a crucial time for brain development. It is vital that babies and their parents are supported during this time to promote attachment. Without a good initial bond, children are less likely to grow up to become happy, independent, and resilient adults.” – Robert Winston & Rebecca Chicot.
Let’s also recognize that contrary to popular opinion, mothers aren’t interchangeable. Not one woman on this planet could replicate the connection and bond I should have had with my biological mother, but they can try, but it will never be the same.
But, often, substitute maternal figures can benefit an individual, provide love, and sometimes form a long-lasting bond and connection with a child. However, we can’t assume that all adopted people form a bond with their adopters, particularly their maternal figure, the adoptive mother. Sadly, the ability to not bond with our adopters is valid for many adoptees.
Let’s focus on the adoptees who don’t bond with their maternal figure since it’s presumed that most adoptees automatically bond with their primary caregiver, whether it’s their biological mother or not. No one is talking about the side of the coin on what it might feel like from an adoptee’s lens to be forced to bond with foreigners you are incapable of bonding with. DNA matters, and our maternal bond with our biological mother matters.
“Not everyone bonds with their biological parents, adopted or not!” – says the non-adoptee community.
You are correct; however, here in this article, we are talking about adoptees! Of course, bonding isn’t guaranteed, and I am entirely aware that not all individuals form everlasting and substantial bonds with their biological mothers or parents.
Nevertheless, let’s spotlight that being born to and raised with your biological mother compared to an essential stranger carries a tremendous difference. One is a foreigner, and one we share DNA with.
I am an adoptee who didn’t form a bond with my adoptive mother.
I am also an adoptee who was forced to TRY.
It felt like I was put in a room with a stranger, and she started hugging me, touching me, and being obsessed with me, but she never left. She was always around, dominating and controlling every aspect of my life. It was traumatic, and it made my skin crawl. I still feel fragments of it when I think about it.
To add to this complexity, I was coerced to live an illusion, a fantasy, to appease my adoptive parents’ wants, needs, and desires. Adoption is rooted in a delusion that was agreed upon by my adoptive parents and my biological mother as co-conspirators in a legalized plan to hijack my true identity, better known as Adoption.
I was coerced to accept my new identity as truth, while my Authentic identity was kept captive, secretly hidden away, never to be discovered. I was lied to, told I should be grateful, and love is the reason my biological passed me over to genetically foreign strangers.
I was stalled from finding my biological father by being told he was dead, which was an absolute untruth. I said, “I want to stand over his grave then, and until I do that, I will never believe he’s dead!” And guess what? My tenacity persisted, and I found, met, and laid eyes on my birth father. He was very much alive, and they lied.
While everyone in the transaction gets what they want, I am the one left to sift through the rubble once the entire orchestration blows up and the pieces are shattered all over the ground. One by one, I have fought the world to find my truth year after year. They got what they wanted in some regard, but I have never been the compliant and grateful adoptee they signed up for.
Instead, I’ve conducted my life as quite the opposite. I was pissing people off the minute I entered the world, and I have no plans on stopping now.
How do you think this assumed UNNATURAL bonding has negatively impacted my life? Or the lifetime of lies my entire existence was built on? I don’t like it when people fucking touch me or look at me. I don’t trust people and struggle significantly with allowing them to get close to me. The forced pretending has carried over to my adult life. I constantly have to correct myself and work on operating from a place of TRUTH AND TRANSPARENCY, even when everyone in the adoption industry (even my adopters) pushed secrecy, lies, and half-truths.
Being pushed or coerced to bond with a foreigner is a special kind of mental mind f*ck. So let’s bring the real deal to the table. It’s brutal, and it isn’t pleasant. It gives me the creeps. It’s caused me C-PTSD, extreme grief, sadness, and a loss that can not be measured. A counterfeit mother figure couldn’t substitute my real biological mother, but because of Adoption, she tried and failed miserably. Kudos to her for trying at my expense!
I remember from a very young age being repulsed by her. From around four to five years old, I remember her forcing me to do things I didn’t want to, like massaging her entire body with lotion. She made me put on makeup on her and brush her hair. I had to run her bathwater, keep her room clean and take care of her when she was manic, depressive, sick, and suicidal. I was forced to do other awful things no child should have to do, but I cannot convey them currently.
For some wild reason, I have this intuitive sense that she tried to breastfeed me when I was a newborn, which is unnatural to me when it’s not from my biological mother. When she touched me, I would become nauseated from a very early age. This notion completely repulses me, and I am 100% against any adoptive mothers breastfeeding their adopted children. This is a whole article by itself; stay tuned.
While I have no experience of what it feels like to have a healthy connection or a bond with any mother, I can share without a shadow of a doubt that the experience of NOT having this has been heartbreaking, grievous, and painful. Therefore, to be coerced into conformation with the notion of love being enough to suffice all lost because of Adoption is corrupt, offensive, and heartless!
It’s tough to describe how being forced to bond with someone I cannot bond with has felt my whole life. For starters, I am positive that “the way my adoptive mother was” had a profound impact on the capabilities of forming a bond with her. But, of course, not all adoptive moms are like her. I will never get another chance in the mother department; quite frankly, striking it out three times in this area is enough for me. So, we have my biological mother, adoptive mother, and stepmother, and I feel no bond or connection with any of them.
I wonder if my biological mother knew this would be a reality if she would still choose Adoption.
Giving a baby up for Adoption or adopting a baby and assuming they will form a bond with their adoptive maternal figure is like playing Russian roulette and taking a chance that could have life or death consequences. When adoptive parents don’t form the bonds they expect when they adopt a child, they sometimes rehome the child, passing them over to someone else to raise. Once again, they decided to take this chance, and at no fault, the adoptee is the one who never made this choice, yet we have to pay for the consequences for life.
Not only is the adoptee severed from the biological mother, but this automatic notion that they will permanently, automatically, or in time, assuming that they will bond with the adoptive parents, must be put to rest.
SOMETIMES IT’S IMPOSSIBLE FOR AN ADOPTEE TO ATTACH OR BOND TO ANYONE WHEN THE ORIGINAL BOND TO OUR BIOLOGICAL MOTHERS IS BROKEN! THIS IS OUR REALITY.
We need everyone in the adoption constellation to acknowledge that this is a reality for many adoptees. When this expectation is placed on us, and we don’t have the capabilities to meet the expected requirements, it can and will impact every area of our lives. Not just our lives but the lives of anyone that knows and loves the adoptee. It will impact our children and their children.
I can’t speak for all adoptees, but I have always struggled to bond and connect with people. I have carried this deep internal dialog with myself that is one of defeat, where I feel defective and broken. In my healing journey, mapping out all areas of my life, I have recognized that because the original bond with my birth mother was broken, it has impacted me negatively my entire life. It takes me a supplementary amount of work to experience what most people take for granted, and that’s bonding with anyone. All the time, I have worked to “fix myself” because what Adoption has broken has robbed me of a meaningful life. For 48 years, I am still attempting to fix what Adoption stole, broke, and robbed me of, and I often think about what I would have made of myself and become if I had an everyday life. One where I wasn’t dying on the inside every day just because I needed to see the face of the woman that gave me life only to be rejected by her once I found her.
So much for “she loved you so much!” The biggest lie ever told in Adoption.
This struggle is rooted in the broken and missing bond from the loss of our biological mothers. This is one more expectation that’s been placed upon me and so many adoptees that reflects a decision others made for us.
“How do you think your adoptive mom felt when you didn’t bond with her? Do you think this was her choice? How do you think she felt not bonding with you? I’m sure it wrecked her, and she felt it too!” – Says the world.
To be completely honest, I don’t care. She autographed the paperwork and signed up for this; I did not. But, let me be evident in defense of all the adoptive parents and birth parents out there who are considering Adoption; the adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, and advocates are not going to tell you the depth and layers of this reality! They might touch on it, but they will devise coercive ways to convince you that there are “so many ways” to bond with your adoptive baby. No one can guarantee this maternal bond to be acquired with an artificial mother, just like they can’t guarantee a “better life” in Adoption, only a different one.
This is why it’s essential to listen to adult adoptees!
Well, BONDING WITH YOUR ADOPTIVE BABY IS NOT GUARANTEED! So better yet, maybe ask yourself before you choose Adoption for your baby or to start a family, “How would I navigate an adopted child who couldn’t bond with me? Or “What if I couldn’t bond with them? Would I try to force it? Should I choose not to parent instead of playing Russian roulette with a child’s life?”
If you get on YouTube and find “Soft White Underbelly” and hear the stories of all the individuals interviewed on this show, the majority of them express early wounds of the missing mother and the mother wound that go back to their childhoods. Of course, some were abandoned, and family or other people took some in; however, the common theme in many stories is the broken bonds and relationships with the maternal mother figures in their lives.
Considering adoptees are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than non-adopted people, and they are over-represented in prisons, jails, treatment, and mental health facilities, I think its time the adoption constellation steps out of denial and acknowledges that we have a real problem here.
For my fellow adoptees, how well did you bond or not bond with your adoptive parents?
Have you been able to connect the dots on this impacting other area of your lives?
If so, how do you feel it’s impacted you the most?
How have you healed from it?
Have you accepted it’s here to stay?
I’ve created a comprehensive list of recommended resources for adult adoptees and adoption advocates!
Thank you for reading,
Pamela A. Karanova
Don’t forget this article, along with all my other articles, are available in audio for your convenience; look up Pamela A. Karanova Podcast on Google Podcasts, iTunes, and Spotify. And Amazon Music. Interested in treating me to a coffee to add fuel to my fire? Click here. Many thanks in advance to my supporters!
*The views and opinions expressed in this article and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova
6 thoughts on “The Perplexity of Forced Bonding in Adoption – An Adoptees Perspective”
Great article- it was a big relief when my therapist told me that literally the ONLY bond in the world IS between a mom and HER OWN babies. Its not a choice – its just fact… reality. Its a pysiological and special because of that fact that they are inside the womb for 9 ish months. I only wish that this was told to people. Especially adoptive parents… and mothers who are even considering placing their babies for adoption. We as a society need to start valuing the precious bond there is between mothers and babies. It truly says a lot about our society the way this is respected in different areas of the world. Attachments can be formed through a lot of time and effort- but it still is never a bond. I wish my moms knew this and we all had less pressure on us to pretend and instead work on attachments and respecting bonds.
Thank you so much for sharing here. I appreciate your words and I couldn’t agree with you more. Somehow, the sacred bond we have with our biological mothers is swept under the rug, and its a bond that can’t be duplicated or imitated. They can try, but it just isn’t happening!
This was a hard article to write, but I recently realized that no one has ever brought the topic to light about “forced bonding” in adoption and it has impacted me greatly my whole life! It’s a HUGE piece of the adoptee experience so that’s what sparked me to write about it.
I, like you wish this was brought to light many moons ago. Hopefully as we keep speaking about the realities of adoption and the adoptee experience, things will start to shift! I can only hope.
Sending you much love and HAPPY NEW YEAR! ❤
As a 47 year old adult adoptee I’m looking back on decades of my adult life having been wasted trying to unravel the mess left over from the childhood with my adoptive parents. I did not bond with either of them. To be fair, up until about 10 years old we got along okay. My adoptive father had Asperger’s syndrome & my adoptive mother was an attention starved narcissist. So – my early childhood behavior and constant need for attention proved to be pleasing enough for them. BUT – the minute I started coming into my own true personality / identity / life choices the hammer came down. HARD. It became clear I was expected to fit their family mold. Every single personal decision I made was challenged, and we fought constantly. They were completely blind to the fact I was born to be my own individual. I’m convinced the adoption agency told them I was just a little etch-a-sketch & they could draw whatever they wanted to on me. I was miserable, and they treated my distress as some type of internal malfunctioning on my part rather than a reaction to my situation and surroundings. I felt like a square peg they were trying to force through a round hole. When I wouldn’t fit they just got out the hammer & kept smashing away until I was crammed in there. Afterwards, when there were bits of wood and paint shavings all over the place it was MY fault for the mess the whole process created… The worst part was watching my brother (their biological son) grow up without issue – following flawlessly in their footsteps, having all the doors opened wide for him, never having the daily existential struggles over personality and identity differences. I had so much potential as a child. I was born to be a musician & talented as hell. My adoptive family were all highly educated professionals and religious zealots. None of it resonated with me. I was forced to go directly into college, even though I clearly hated high school. I didn’t care about money or success, the only two things they harped on me to achieve. I wanted to travel the world playing music, and let the rewards for my talent find me. They relentlessly drilled it into my head that I would never find success as a musician. They demanded I conform to their lifestyle of practicality. And they did it under threat of “never supporting me” if I dare go off and follow a different path from theirs. These people – who claimed they “loved me”, and “wanted what was best for me”, threatened to ABANDON ME if I didn’t force myself to fit in with them. This year through Ancestry I managed to find one of my biological sisters. It was the happiest & saddest day of my life. We have so much in common it’s unbelievable. Our mother died in 1996. Apparently I’m exactly like she was, more so than her other 3 kids who she actually raised. I was basically relinquished at gun point in 1975 under orders from my biological grandmother. I was not “given away out of love.” Equally heartbreaking I learned my father was a famous musician who made a brief appearance in my biological mother’s life. The story is probably the coolest origin story I could ever imagine. Ironically, if my adoptive family knew where I truly came from they would probably just view it with pity and disgust. They would simply see my mom as a cheap slut who screwed some sweaty stranger after a concert. My genetic heritage has never registered an ounce of importance to them. When I learned the truth about my REAL parents everything made sense, and it completely crushed me. I always knew it was my destiny to be a performer. I gave up on that dream in order to chase success and money to appease my adoptive family. Well, I never found either. At my age now there’s no way for me to break into the music industry in any meaningful capacity. My brother (3 years younger than me) is a retired multi-millionaire, much to my adoptive parents’ delight. And I am the failure. Permanently unhappy, unable to feel real joy, hoping the next life is better than this one… Nobody sees the pain, nobody understands where it comes from, they’re all convinced they “did their best” and will undoubtedly remain oblivious to their graves. Fuck adoption.