Adoptees are Paying the Price for Adoptive Parent Infertility Compacted with AP Fragility

It is not enough to lose your biological mother at the beginning of life. Still, adopted individuals also must live up to unrealistic expectations set upon us by society and our adoptive parents. We must fit in the shoes of the fantasized biological child our adoptive parents would have had; could they have had children of their own. They have big plans for us like most parents have for their children.

News Flash: We can’t fit into those shoes or that role. It’s impossible. I’m very sorry for your loss, but its not my job to fix it or make up for it. I shouldn’t have to carry that burden. However, adoptees continue to be presented as a clean slate when we meet our adoptive parents’. Every one of us has a [his]-story & a [her]-story before we’re adopted, and it’s a critically important part of US.

I’ve experienced in my journey and learned by listening to my fellow adoptees that, more times than not, our adoptive parents have never fully healed from the unsettling truth that they couldn’t have children of their own due to infertility issues.  This causes significant problems for the adopted child because we will never live up to the expectations as if we were a biological child, but this demand is high. When healing hasn’t happened first, it can be a disaster in the home.

We’re born experiencing immense trauma by being separated from our biological mothers. This separation trauma impacts every area of our lives showing up as grief, loss, C-PTSD, abandonment, rejection, anger, rage, addictions and so much more.  The weight the adopted child feels and carries into adulthood is tremendous alone. Still, it’s compacted by the expectations set upon us to be something or someone we aren’t by our adoptive parent’s expectations. This weight carries on into adulthood and impacts every area of our lives. 

When our adoptive parents have significant unhealed issues with the loss of not having children of their own, it surfaces in every area of the home.

In my story, I remember my adoptive mom never being well, and she was always taking pills. When I was a child, I didn’t understand what was going on, but now I know “never being well” was depression, pill addiction, and manic depressive suicidal episodes. The depression was rooted in untreated mental illness, the aftermath of not being able to have children of her own, and marrying and adopting two daughters, only to divorce one short year later. I was told she wasn’t capable of parenting one adopted child, but somehow she ended up divorced, alone with two adopted daughters.

A glimpse of my childhood consisted of me being my adoptive mom’s caretaker. She was abnormally emotional every day and cried daily, saying repeatedly she wasn’t worthy of being a mother. I was the comforter and “Good adoptee.” I would sit with her on the edge of the couch and comfort her by rubbing her back and saying, “It’s okay, mommy, I’m sorry, mommy, It’s okay.” I must have said, “I’m sorry,” 100X a day sometimes. I remember being sad all the time and wanting her to stop crying. She never did, but when she wasn’t crying, she was sleeping in the daytime, and she also had a compulsion of wanting to threaten to commit suicide in front of us, which she frequently did. Learning and focusing in school was impossible most days, because I was I was riddled with anxiety and fear day in and day out.

Is it possible her infertility issues were the root of her behaviors? Being 46 years old and evaluating my childhood, I would suggest so. I don’t have the definite answers because she never got help for those issues; she adopted to fill the void instead. It was my responsibility as far back as I could remember to take care of her, cater to her, and be there for her. I was a slave to her.

I’ve recently discovered that I’m a people pleaser, and this characteristic was developed early in my childhood as a direct reflection of wanting to make my adoptive mom happy. I did everything I could think of to bring her happiness, and in the end, I always fell short. A co-dependent relationship was created, but I had no choice in the matter. I felt trapped in this cycle of co-dependency for most of my life due to my adoption experience.

Where was I going to go?

How was I going to get out?

It was all I knew.

I recall my entire childhood was focused on ways to make my adoptive mom happy, at the expense of my childhood happiness. Everything was all about her. I felt like a child servant with a list of tasks to complete daily, and most of them were centered around making her happy. I was brushing her hair, putting makeup on her face, massaging her arms, legs, and back with lotion, filing paperwork for her, cutting coupons, cleaning far beyond everyday routine childhood chores. I was never able to be a kid in this home. My feelings were never validated, nor were they important. Her adoptive parent fragility reigned supreme over all things in this household.

Please understand that this didn’t stop in childhood. It only stopped when I packed up a 22 Foot U haul and left this toxicity. I moved across the country with my three young children at 31 years old. It felt like an escape, and I have never looked back or regretted my decision but it hasn’t come without more heartache.. When I arrived back in Kentucky, I had no job, no car, no money, no home, no place to live, and no keys to anything. Thankfully my twin’s grandmother was kind enough to let us use a bedroom, where we all 4 stayed for the next few months to get on my feet. Little by little, I made a way for my children.

This escape didn’t come without a cost. Unfortunately, it’s taken me 15+ years to recover, and I’m still recovering daily. It’s going to be a lifelong process for me, as it is most adoptees/relinquishees.

My adoptive moms’ actions throughout my childhood and lifetime caused significant damage that has radiated throughout my life course. When I left at 31, I had to sever ties for my mental health, but it wasn’t before I tried to set boundaries first. She overrode every boundary I asked of her, which were simple things like please put your pills away. I asked her to please not cry around my kids. I asked her please not talk negatively about me behind my back to my children. She broke everyone, so I cut all contact. She was not going to do to my children what she did to me. Moving across the country and cutting ties was the only option.

It was the hardest decision I ever made.

Being groomed to put my feelings aside and caretake to her and her feelings have been a pattern I have picked up into adulthood. I put everyone else ahead of myself, and I never learned how to say “no” or even have an opinion about anything. This has caused me a lot of problems in relationships and my personal space and life. Caretaking is something I was conditioned to do from a very early age; it’s no wonder I am a caretaker by career and have been for 15+ years. This role wasn’t healthy for me as a child, and it’s not healthy for me as an adult.

I was forced to pretend, and I ended up being a professional at this game of make-believe. Better yet, I was conditioned to assume the role of expectations from a very early age. In this game, I learned early that my true feelings of grief, loss, and sadness from the loss of my biological mother and families’ weren’t welcomed. If I shared them, I took the chance I might hurt my adoptive parents’ feelings.

With my adoptive mom crying daily, sometimes hourly, having mental health episodes, she was likely already hysterical. My feelings of sadness would only add to this problem. I learned to keep things inside locked away. I learned my feelings weren’t important, and they didn’t compare to her outbursts. The safest place for them was to pretend like they weren’t there. I think I learned to disassociate and became a professional at it as a survival technique. There was a split created between the real true me, and the me she needed me to be.

As an adult, trying to recover from this childhood, I have done countless healing exercises to help myself try to make sense of it all and heal. One of the things I did was put myself in her shoes to try to gain a better understanding of why she was the way she was.

Untreated mental illness has always highlighted itself in a way that I’ve put it at the top of the list of why she was the way she was. I didn’t understand this as a child, but It’s more than evident mental illness is front and center when her suicide attempts of laying in the middle of the street play like a repeated movie scene in my mind from my childhood. She was sick, but I didn’t understand mental illness as a child.

I can’t help but wonder how my life would have been different if my adoptive parents had gotten some therapy for infertility issues before choosing to adopt. I think about it from time to time; although non of us get any “do-overs” in life, I sure would have benefited in a positive way to have a happy, healthy mother figure to think about in my lifetime. I blew it in this area not once, but twice. A total crap shot.

Instead, the trauma of her attempting suicide, her untreated mental illness, pill addiction, and her manic depressive episodes trump all the good memories there were.  Traumatic memories seem to have a way of showing upfront and center in our lives when we least expect it.

Over the years, I have heard countless stories from my fellow adoptees. They experienced similar childhoods and lives. Our adoptive parents adopted a child to replace their biological child they might have had if they didn’t have infertility issues, never healing from infertility issues first. It’s no secret in the adoptee community; we weren’t chosen. We were next in line.

This breaks my heart for my fellow adoptees because many of us didn’t stand a chance at having happy childhoods. There is nothing a relinquishee/adoptee can do to make up for the loss one feels who cannot have their own biological children. Nothing. Yet here we are, forced to fit into a role we can’t possibly fit into.

But we fake it until we make it, and we try because we have no choice. We learn to adapt, or we die trying. This sets us up for a lifetime of a false sense of self, never really knowing who we are or who we aren’t until we break away altogether. And some of us never make it to that place of self-discovery. Breaking away is difficult, if not impossible, for most of us. It’s no wonder adoptees are 4x more likely to attempt suicide. Look at the paradox we are forced to be in the center of.

The sensitivities around this topic echo throughout our lives. Many times it creates an adoptive parent fragility that adoptees are forced to be sensitive to. We’re groomed to put everyone’s feelings above our own, and it can and will create and a lifetime of struggles. 

It’s taken a lifetime to be able to look myself in the mirror and say, “You are important, and so are ALL of your feelings!” because no one ever did this for me growing up. My life was centered around her and her feelings. It was never about me.

I remember conversations with my adoptive mom way before I reached adulthood, where she wanted to make sure I knew she didn’t want to go to a nursing home when she got old. She also had talked about me being her power of attorney way before I was even an adult. It became evident to me at a very early age, and these were the reasons she adopted two daughters. She had a motive the entire time, and it wasn’t hard to piece it all together as I grew up.  

I never was and never will be the daughter my adoptive parents signed up for. I’m pretty sure I’ve turned out quite the opposite, to be honest. I’ve committed to spending the rest of my days trying to recover from this childhood of pain, not just for myself. For my kids, so they have a chance at seeing a happy and healthy mom, which I never had. Even on the days where I didn’t have the drive and motivation for myself, I do it for them.

Suppose you’ve made it this far, and you are possibly a prospective adoptive parent. In that case, I ask you to please consider intense emotional and psychological therapy before you even think of adopting a child. And then before you choose to adopt, visit pages like @askanadoptee and @howdoesitfeeltobeadopted and read and learn what adoption is like from an adoptee’s perspective. Ask questions on the Ask an Adoptee platform because one thing for sure, adoptees there will tell you the truth, even when it hurts. Have you accepted that relinquishment trauma is a real thing? Do you know anything about it? If you don’t you need to learn from adopted adults. We hold the keys of knowledge but you have to have the willingness to listen and learn.

If you are an adoptive parent already, I urge you to seek deep within ourselves to find out where you are in your recovery and healing with your infertility struggles.  Please do this immediately before you project your pain onto your adoptive child. Also, know that we never can and never will be what your biological child would have been. Unless you have accepted this, you still have work to do.

For my fellow adoptees, I’m so sorry for your pain and heartache. I’m sorry for the unrealistic expectations that have been placed upon you to fill the shoes of a child you were never meant to fill. I’m sorry you weren’t listened to. I’m sorry you haven’t felt your feelings are important as a child or an adult. Your feelings are important, and so are you. Can you relate to anything I have shared here? I would love to hear from you!

Love, Love.

When Your Biggest Blessing Invalidates My Greatest Trauma

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When your biggest blessing invalidates my greatest trauma it sets me up for a lifetime of pain, suffering and isolation. It facilitates a lifetime of suicidal ideation, because the pain is just too great to process. It makes me feel more isolated and alone than non-adopted individuals can ever imagine. It makes me wish I was aborted and feeling like I want to die for most of my life, because my pain is greater than my desire to want to live. It drives me to attempt to take my life as a teenager, because you fail to admit I have lost anything. It drives me to a place of addiction, because at the end of every day the only way to manage every day life is to numb the pain. When you use bible scriptures to defend your blessing, it makes me question the bible and the God you are speaking of. When your biggest blessing outshines my reality, it makes me feel unimportant and insignificant. When you refer to me as a blessing, it hurts because you are invalidating my adoptee and relinquishee reality.

My story went something like this:

Me: Mommy, did I come out of your tummy?

Adoptive Mom: No, you were adopted. Your birth mother’s choice to surrender you for adoption was my biggest blessing and a dream come true.

Me: What do you mean?

Adoptive Mom: She loved you so much she gave you to me to raise, and I will always love her and be thankful for her decision.

Me: Who is she? Where is she?

Adoptive Mom: We don’t know, honey.

Me: Experienced the most significant mental mind fu*k of my entire lifetime.

I was approximately five years old when this conversation took place, and it’s clear to me that my life was never the same. Every day, I was haunted every hour and every minute wondering, wishing, and dreaming about finding HER.

No matter what questions I had or what mental torment I experienced from this moment forward, my adoptive mom’s joy and happiness trumped everything. My feelings didn’t matter when I was her biggest blessing in life, and her joy  of being a mother trumped my feelings of sadness every damn day.

If I’m transparent, my adoptive mom likely didn’t know the pain and heartache I was experiencing but if she did, her happiness was highlighted over my pain. I was adopted in August of 1974, and my adoptive parents were told to sweep the entire idea of adoption and what it meant under the rug. They were also told the less we talked about it; the better things would be. This is how many adoptions were back in those days, but today is a new day and a new year. It’s 2020, and when you know better, you do better.

However, I ask myself if my adoptive parents knew this, would it have changed anything for my five-year-old self, who was desperately searching for my REAL MOTHER?

I genuinely believe as a 46-year-old woman, if I were able to process my trauma at as early of an age as possible, my healing journey wouldn’t have started at 36+ years old. I wouldn’t have been addicted to substances for 27 years of my life. I recently celebrated 8 years sobriety, however I feel like I’ve spent my entire life not only suffering from the trauma of relinquishment and adoption but healing from the lifelong aftermath of these experiences.

I have barely started living my life yet, and if I’m lucky, it’s over half over. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but I try to remain grateful that I’m here and I’m alive because I know so many of my fellow adoptees are not. This is why I keep sharing and writing. Adoptees are dying!

Adoptions continue to happen all over the world. We cannot continue to fail to acknowledge that before the blessing of an adopted child is brought into a family, it is equally intertwined into the very beginnings of our life, which is a traumatic experience. We must also recognize that relinquishment is trauma, and so is adoption. These are two very different dynamics to the adoptee experience. The sooner society steps out of denial about these truths; the sooner adoptees will start to heal.

Better yet, if our adoptive parents knew these truths from the beginning, would they still choose to adopt anyway? In my experience spending the last ten years networking in the adoption community, most all adoptive parents I have talked to have expressed they TRULY had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they adopted. The adoption agencies and attorneys never shared the truth with them. When they learned what they were up against, it was too late, and they were stuck with this child who has come with deep-rooted relinquishment trauma, or they rehome them and send them back.

Let me be clear, we can have wonderful and loving adoptive homes and love our adoptive families greatly, but the original trauma of relinquishment still remains the same. Networking with adoptees for over 10+ years and hearing their stories, building relationships with them, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt most of us don’t get happy and loving adoptive homes! If you are that one adoptee or know that one adoptee who’s “Just fine” with being adopted, spend more time getting to know more adoptees. That one adoptee story doesn’t compare to the hundreds of thousands of adoptees who have nightmare adoption stories and adoptive homes. Remember, adoption trauma always compacts the original relinquishment trauma.

In what ways does relinquishment and adoption trauma surface in an adopted individual? It can be acting out at an early age or teen/adult years with anger, rage, self-harm, substance abuse, breaking the law, running away, testing the waters in every way possible. Depression, anxiety, abandonment, mental health issues, self love, self hate, rejection, and Complex – PTSD. Let’s not forget grief and loss. Grief and loss show up in more ways than non-adoptees can even imagine and it lasts a lifetime! We struggle with these things for our entire lifetimes and many adoptees never get the help they deserve, taking this pain to their graves. We don’t wake up one day and it’s gone. It follows us, like ball and chain. For many of us, it feels like we’re doing a life sentence for a crime we didn’t commit.

While our adoptive parents, their friends, and family are celebrating adoption blessings, the truth is that adoptees will continue to attempt suicide at 4x the rate of non-adopted individuals. We will continue to grieve our grief and process our loss alone for a lifetime. We will continue to feel helpless in a world that celebrates our relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma. We will continue to live a life riddled with anxiety, depression, and sadness. We will continue to feel isolated and alone. Many and most of us take these things to our graves, because there has never been any help for us.

Instead, you celebrate our trauma and normalize the separation of a mother and her baby. Nothing about relinquishment and adoption is normal, and all the feelings adoptees feel and how we respond to relinquishment and adoption trauma is normal considering the circumstances. What’s not normal is relinquishment and adoption trauma!

Back in 1974, adoptees weren’t baring their souls to share their stories in hopes of shining a light on the truth about adoption and how it’s made them feel. If they were, there might have been very few of them. Today they are, and it’s making a difference. One of the biggest things I have experienced that’s been a significant hurdle to overcome is that our world celebrates adoption the way they do. Can you imagine our world celebrating rape or child abuse? Can you imagine our world celebrating someone being held hostage at gunpoint? Can you imagine our world celebrating a mother and child dying in childbirth?

Only in adoption is our most tremendous trauma of relinquishment not acknowledged, but it’s celebrated. The mental mind fu*k this causes for relinquished and adopted individuals can’t even be explained. Let me be frank; it’s a big giant clusterfu*k.

While our adoptive parents and society are celebrating, they don’t equally acknowledge that we are being is severed from our roots before any adoption occurs. This is the most significant loss of our lifetimes. We lose genetic mirrors, biological connections, medical history, siblings, grandparents, ethnicity, homeland, and so much more on top of YOU CELEBRATING IT. Stop celebrating mothers and babies being separated!

If you’ve made it this far, I will encourage you to challenge yourself in stepping out of denial about the FACTS that what you were told and what you learned about adoption might not be accurate information. I ask you to open your eyes, ears, and hearts to the truth that relinquished and adopted individuals need you to equally acknowledge all we have lost before you consider celebrating it.

We’re not your blessing. Until you can do this vital step to help aid us in our healing process you have no business celebrating us or calling us a blessing. When our adoptive parents are our elders, we follow suit in what they acknowledge as we are children. If you recognize this, we will realize this. Conversations about grief, loss, relinquishment, abandonment, rejection, culture, genetic mirroring, searching, and reunion need to happen. As children, we will NOT be able or equipped to open these conversations on our own. Without the support of our adoptive parents, we will suffer, and we will suffer greatly.

I hate to shatter the fantasy that your adoption is a blessing, but the truth is before every adoption takes place, relinquishment trauma happens first. Adoptees are dying. Please stop celebrating our relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma, and if even after learning all this, you still choose to celebrate, at least equally share the truth by sharing the painful pieces as well. If you don’t, you will regret it, and please know you are assisting in the stalling of your adopted child’s healing. A lifetime of pain will follow no matter what, but if you choose to assist by opening these difficult conversations, it will help!

If you are the adoptive parent of an adult adoptee, you can still apply this information to your journey, life, and relationship with the adopted individual in your life. I don’t know your story, nor do I need to know it. Start talking about the TRUTH in adoption. Start talking about uncomfortable topics. It could save your relinquishee/adoptees life.

Thanks for reading.

The views and opinions expressed in this article 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

My Views on Adoptee vs. Relinquishee

Over the last few years, I’ve learned the noteworthy difference in the concept of an adopted individual referencing themselves as a relinquishee and why this is even a thing. Take note while I share here, I’m sharing from the perspective of an adoptee adopted from a closed adoption in 1974. I’m not referencing individuals who have never been separated from their biological mothers at the beginning of life.

10+ years ago, I began to come out of the fog regarding my adoptee journey, and in that time, it’s been ten years of processing pain, heartache, adoption, and relinquishment trauma. I had to trace back to the beginning of my life, which we would typically consider being conception. I actually wrote about this before many years ago, Is Adoption the Problem or is Relinquishment the Problem?

 However, we must go much farther back and allow ourselves to spend some time in our birth parents’ shoes, their parents’ shoes, and their parents’ shoes.

Over those ten years, I’ve learned the knowledgeable difference between someone using the reference adoption trauma and relinquishment trauma. They are two very different things, and we must recognize them as such to embrace our healing journeys.

For myself, the root of my pain is a reflection of the original separation and relinquishment trauma from my birth mother. This wound in the adoption community is fitfully referenced as The Primal Wound.

I share my thoughts and feelings based on my experiences, which is especially true for my healing journey. One’s healing journey is never cut and dry, reflecting ONE WAY, so I will never insist what works for me will work for you too, but it might.

I used to refer to adoption trauma as the root of my trauma; however, my growth has caused my views to change over the years. Today, I hear countless individuals reference adoption trauma as the soul wound that an adoptee carries; however, I would disagree. The first trauma an adopted individual experiences is actually from the relinquishment from our biological mothers. This trauma is first, and it is the root of our heartache and pain. Trying to heal these wounds “out of order” where we aren’t acknowledging the root first, can and will stall our healing as relinquishees.

Adoption trauma is definitely in the mix for most of us, who consider our adoptive homes a traumatic experience. Still, we must acknowledge that relinquishment trauma, aka the primal wound, was FIRST.

Adoption trauma compacts relinquishment trauma, making one big cluster fu*ks of trauma on top of trauma. I’m a firm believer in getting to the root of the problem to pull it out and set it on the table to work on it. In my opinion, we must start referring to our pain to share where the root of our heartache and pain comes from, and that’s relinquishment trauma.

The loss of our birth mother is so profound that until we start to recognize this as our original trauma that happened FIRST, our healing will be stalled.

Adoption trauma is a thing. Being forced to bond with a family, you are nothing like is a thing. Adoption abuse is a thing. Adoption itself is separate from relinquishment and in this acknowledgement, I’ve learned this is one reason adoptees are now referencing themselves as relinquishees.

As I embrace a New Year and as 2021 approaches, I feel that for my writings and personal journey, I am going to starting writing from the perspective of a relinquishee because, for me, that’s the one wound that’s been the deepest. It’s the root of my pain. To recognize this, I want other adoptees to consider acknowledging this as their root wound as well. However, it could also be known as the mother wound for adoptees that wound is dual damage.

I have learned over the years some adoptees do not acknowledge adoption or relinquishment as a trauma. However, I feel they likely haven’t done enough research on either of these to make the correlation.

One dynamic of connecting these dots was to step out of denial about relinquishment trauma. This only happened by researching and trying to understand pre and perinatal bonding, separation after birth, and the emotional, psychological, and preverbal trauma that occurs when relinquishment/separation happens. Another avenue to research is generational trauma. No one will tell us to research these things to understand them better, so we must embrace this on our own.

Acknowledging these differences in relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma is critically essential, and our healing depends on it. Moving forward, you will likely see me reference myself as a relinquishee about my views on relinquishment trauma. I encourage you to do your research and study all the adoptee experience dynamics so you can best understand the complex layers of trauma that an adopted individual experiences.

For most adoptions to take place, the adoptee is a relinquishee FIRST. I think this difference is a noteworthy one those in adoption circles should acknowledge because the more we understand, the more we heal.

Thanks for reading.

The views and opinions expressed in this article 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.