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.

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.

Still Grieving Adoptee Losses, What My Adoptive Parents Could Have Done Differently

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I was born in Iowa in August of 1974. At that moment when I found out I was adopted back in 1979, I wish my adoptive mom would have sat down with me and opened the conversations about what adoption REALLY meant. I was around 5 years old.

Instead, I got something like this.

Me: Mommy, I grew in your tummy like the baby in the lady’s belly on television?

Adoptive Mom: No, you grew in another lady’s belly. She loved you so much, she gave you to me to raise because she wanted you to have a better life. It was a dream come true for me to become a mommy. I couldn’t have children of my own. I will always love her for that because she’s given me the greatest gift of my life.

Me: Who is she?

Adoptive Mom: I don’t know who she is. You were adopted. If you want to know who she is, we will have to wait until we get enough money for an attorney to get the sealed records opened. Right now, we don’t have enough money. I just know she loved you so much and wanted you to have a better life.

Me: Where is she?

Adoptive Mom: I don’t know where she is.

Me 1980: Who is She?

Me 1981: Where is She?

Me 1982: Who Is She?

Me 1983: Where is She?

Me 1984: Who is She?

Me 1985-1994: Every Single Year – Who is she? Where is She?

Every Single Year

Adoptive Mom: I don’t know who she is or where she is. You were adopted. If you want to know who she is, we will have to wait until we get enough money for an attorney to get the sealed records opened. Right now, we don’t have enough money.

At 21 Years Old in 1995 I said to my adoptive mom, “WHO IS MY BIRTH MOTHER? WHERE IS SHE?’ It was like a broken record. 

Adoptive Mom: Well, there’s something I want to tell you. When your dad and I signed the paperwork for you to be adopted, the doctors accidentally gave us the wrong paperwork. We saw your birth mothers name, and the street she lived on. If you call your dad, he might remember the information.

I remember this exact moment, because I immediately became enraged and the anger that took over, is something that’s hard for me to process. I’m just telling you THE TRUTH because once I found out she lied to me my entire life, I have never looked at her like a mother again. EVER! Yes, for the record I have forgiven her, but we had an estranged relationship until she died and I don’t regret it for a minute. I can’t have people in my life who lie to me, for any reason at all. Hopefully this will help adoptive parents understand, lying and deception under any circumstances is never okay.

What kind of mother lies to their child repeatedly? I have had to unpack this, and there are many layers and dynamics to it but this layer (along with all the layers of adoption) of the onion has impacted me greatly my entire life.

I was adopted in 1974 and things were different then. I’m certain my adoptive parents were told to not talk about it, to sweep it under the rug and act as if me being adopted didn’t exist. So many adoptive parents weren’t given the correct tools to use so they knew how to navigate these complex dynamics of the adoptee experience.

Looking back, how I wish things were handled? 

Today I believe in my heart of hearts, my adoptive parents didn’t have a CLUE of what they were doing. I don’t think adoption agencies or adoption attorneys are preparing adoptive parents for the TRUTH, and how to navigate it as making money trumps everything in that arena.

I think the deception regarding lying to me my whole life is a way my adoptive mom was able to stall me from finding my truth. But let me just tell you, there were consequences for that. I never trusted her again, and I’ve always felt like she adopted me for her needs, not mine. This has impacted every area of my life, still to this day!  I was a pawn to fulfill her void because she couldn’t have children of her own. I would like to encourage anyone dealing with infertility issues, please seek help on your own. Don’t make your adopted child fill your void. 

I wish more conversations were opened at that moment I found out I was adopted in 1979 and moving forward.

I wish our conversation would have went like this. 

Me: Mommy, Did I come out of your belly like the lady on the television?

Adoptive Mom: No honey, you came out of another lady’s belly. She was unable to take care of you, so she decided to have someone else parent you and that someone else was your dad and me. No, she loved you and gave you away. No, you were my biggest gift because I couldn’t parent or have kids of my own!

Me: Who is she? Where is she?

Adoptive Mom: Because you were adopted, when you are old enough, we will do everything in our power to help you try to find her. Helping your adopted child search and find their biological parents means everything! Support us!

Me: I want to find her now.

Adoptive Mom: We can’t find her until you are 18, but it’s okay to be sad you lost her. It’s okay to love her and want to find her. You lost the most important woman of your life, and it’s okay to feel sad for losing her. Would you like to talk about it? How are you feeling about this? Open these conversations and never stop!

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

No one has ever asked me how it feels to be adopted!

Me: Weeping, my grieving starts at 5 years old because I have every reason to be sad for losing the woman who carried me in her belly for 9 months and who brought me into the world. Regardless of whose dreams she made come true to be parents. Regardless of how much LOVE she thought I was going to have in this “BETTER LIFE” I was promised. Regardless of how happy my adoptive parents were to be parents, and their dreams coming true, I still deserved the right to grieve my losses as soon as I discovered them.

The catch is, I was 5 years old. I didn’t know how to do this. I needed my adoptive parents to step in and open the dialog and put ME AND MY LOSSES FIRST. I needed them to set their dream come true to be parents on the shelf and BE REAL WITH ME!

Yes, this is possible at 5 years old. At age appropriate times it is possible to share the TRUTH with adopted children. If you can’t do this, you have no business being an adoptive parent. Period!

I would give anything if someone in my life would have sat me down and said “It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be mad. it’s okay to feel hurt, and broken, and lost. If I was you, I would feel that way too after losing so much!

But that never happened so at 45 years old, I have been going through the grieving process for 7 years now, all alone.

What did I lose?

My Birth Mother.

My Birth Father.

Connection.

My maternal and paternal grandparents.

My siblings on both sides.

Memories from all the above.

My ancestry.

Genetic Mirroring

My identity

My medical history.

Maternal Bonding

My peace of mind, taken by always searching for clues to my family.

My childhood, taken because I was searching my entire life.

I lost how to regulate emotions, because these are the biggest emotions I’ve ever had, and I had to keep them secret so my adoptive parents wouldn’t get hurt. This was a HUGE internal war within me. It almost killed me. Not to mention, as a child I can’t articulate how I’m feeling, and I don’t have the words to describe it.

I needed help, and I didn’t get it although I’ve been in therapy my entire life since I was 5 years old, and the THERAPIST COULDN’T EVEN HELP ME! Adoption was never talked about, and it was the ROOT issue!

Abuse of substances for 27 years took away my pain, but only temporarily. A lot happened in 27 years.

Today, I’m doing for myself what my adoptive parents and Adoption Culture didn’t do for me. I’m allowing myself the space to grieve my adoptee losses, whatever that looks like for me. Usually I run off in nature, and I cry there because Mother Nature doesn’t have an ulterior motive behind her role in my life. She want’s nothing from me. I write here on my website. I share my feelings in my Adoptees Connect group. I have ways to process, but I’ve had to figure this out alone, after a lifetime of pain.

So, I seek Mother Nature the most, as no one in this world seems to understand that adoptee grief is something I will process for the rest of my life. It never goes away. Just like grief from someone loses their mom in childbirth, or someone losing both their parents in a car wreck.

The difference is, those people are given the gift and privilege of being able to grieve their losses as soon as they happen and usually throughout the duration of their lives, it’s normal to coach them through the grief process.

Not for adoptees.

We are stripped of that privledge but that doesn’ t mean we aren’t grieving on the inside. 

We must grieve in silence, and for many of us, it kills us. I’ve attempted suicide multiple times as a adopted teen, and have contemplated suicide many times as an adult due to my adoption trauma. Mix grief, loss, abandonment, rejection, C-PTSD and the internal confliction I experience daily, it’s a miracle I’m alive and I feel the same for all adoptees who make it out alive. We also live in an Adoption Culture society that celebrates our losses and tries to talk down upon us for feeling anything less than “thankful” or “happy” about our experiences.

I’m just telling you; adoptees are dying out here and there is something adoptive parents and Adoption Culture can do about it. If you know all of this, you can’t unknow it and you can’t say someone out there didn’t share it. If you have adopted a child, please understand that this child can and will have lifelong difficulties that will need ongoing care. Please know that we never outgrow being adopted. Yes, adoption is complicated and it’s messy. No one story fits all. We know this.

But please understand that being adopted is with us FOREVER. The sooner we can start grieving our losses, the sooner we start to heal. Please understand that NO AMOUNT OF LOVE IN THIS WORLD CAN REPLACE THE LOSS I have always felt by losing my biological parents, and all the losses that come with that. Please understand no ivy league college, a brand-new car at 16 years old, or a huge house on a hill can take away these losses. We should be allowed to grieve as early as possible, at age appropriate times and this is life or death for us.

If any adoptive parents might be reading, please allow these conversations to be opened at age appropriately times. Please seek therapy on how to do this. Please don’t ignore this. Please understand no matter how much of a blessing you feel adoption is, it doesn’t change the fact that we experienced a trauma the moment we lost our birth mothers, and that trauma is compacted by pretending it’s not there by adoption being celebrated. I’m sharing here what I wish was done differently based on my experience.

I will be grieving these losses for the rest of my life, but I can’t help but wonder how my life might have been different if I would have started grieving at the moment I found out I was adopted. Please don’t let Adoption Culture deceive you, because I’m here to tell you if you ignore the grief and loss process for your adopted child, you will be sorry you did.

Please don’t mistaken this article as I’m sitting in sadness, depressed, angry or mad at the world. I was in that space for most of my life, because I couldn’t grieve my losses. But today, becaue I’ve allowed myself the space to do this, I’m healing daily and I have actually been able to find love in my life. Love for myself, love for life itself, love for others, love for all things around me. It’s almost impossible to get to the space I am, without grieving my losses. Today I enjoy life. Today I welcome my sadness when it comes, I embrace it and I invite it to stay awhile. I sit with it, I talk with it, and I process it. Then I let it go, until it circles back around again. Procesing adoptee grief is a lifelong journey. The sooner we embrace it and stop running from it, the sooner we start to heal.

 If you’ve made it this far, I commend you.

Adopted Adults are the KEY to learning what should have been done, or what could be done differently. If you’re an adoptive parent, and you have any questions for the adult adoptee community, visit Ask an Adoptee on Facebook. This platform was designed for you in mind.

Adoptees, What are some ways you have been able to grieve your losses? What age did you start this process? Did anyone ever encourage you to do this growing up? Have you been alone in this process?

Adoptive Parents, where are you at with this topic? Did the agencies or attorneys give you information on how to proceed with this topic? Have you been able to open these conversations? If yes, what has that looked like for you? If no, what are you waiting for?

Love, Love

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Open Hearts and Open Minds, Adoptive Parents

I had an adoptive mom say to me on twitter yesterday, “I read your blog,
I know from personal knowledge that many adoptees do not share your issues.”
And I replied with “I know from personal knowledge many adoptees DO share my issues.” I don’t understanding why society is so blinded about the realities of adoption. My adoptee issues and pain are very real and I will continue to always share my feelings with the world to help raise awareness on how it feels to be adopted.
From this lady’s response to me, it leads me to believe she’s an adoptive mom or why would she care to comment? I find this comment to be disturbing. Half-truth, half lie? It was pointless to say the least. I find it appalling when an adoptive parent wants to stand up and speak about what adoptees go through when they are basing their opinion on their fantasy or what they wish their adopted child felt. The truth is, more than likely their adopted child hasn’t grown up and developed their adoptee voice yet.  This means as a child they just might not have any issues, and for the lucky adoptees maybe they never will. I have been blogging about my adoptee experience for almost 2 years now and I’m fairly active in the online adoptee community. I have yet to experience an overflowing amount of “EXCITED TO BE ADOPTED ADOPTEES!”
I really believe that all the adoptees with a voice need to keep voicing their experience so that any adoptive parents that stumble across their blogs, or tweets, or Facebook pages can truly open their hearts up and learn something. It’s the AP’s such as the one above that are blinded and don’t see REALITY who are not going to learn and benefit from the adoptees who have been in the shoes of the very ones they are raising. Even if they don’t agree with what they are hearing about how it feels to be adopted, they should really open their heart and eyes and ears up to the fact that, WOW, MY ADOPTED CHILD COULD FEEL THIS WAY. Not, “I know for certain many adoptees don’t feel the way you do”  With an attitude like that there will be no hope for future adoptees and for society to understand there is much more to adoption than 2 people completing their family by adopting an unwanted, abandoned child.
The reality of adoption is that before a child is adopted their own mother gives them away. However this is explained to the child leaves the child confused. After all, how does one love something and give it away? This can very well lead to low self-esteem, abandonment & rejection issues and fear issues that everyone is going to leave them. These issues are ALL root causes of many types of dysfunctional behaviors and adoptees have a very large chance of facing any of these root causes. Weather any adoptive parents want to admit it or not. I think the real question should be, “How do I help understand my adoptive child better?” VS. “I know from personal experience many adoptees don’t feel like you do”.
Open your eyes and ears, and be receptive to what adoptees have to say, especially if you have invested in adopted children. Of all people you should have an open heart and mind. You can learn a lot from someone who has been in your child’s shoes. Especially those who have healed from the trauma that being given up for adoption by their own mother.
To be continued…