20 December 2009


I've been trying to formulate this post for a few days now. Gathering my thoughts to put into some kind of order onto the blogosphere.

There are a number of first mother blogs that I follow with some regularity. Some of these blogs - particularly those that are in open adoptions are quite inspiring. Seeing how first mothers/fathers and adoptive mothers/fathers navigate their relationships with each other and with the children who bond them together is quite amazing. These are the blogs that give me hope that an open adoption can work if all parties keep their promises and work together.

Other of the first mother blogs are difficult to read because they are filled with pain and anguish - the blogs of mothers who lost their children to adoption unwillingly. Some via the social service system or others who were teen/young mothers who felt that they were coerced into giving up their children because they were considered and convinced by others that they were "too young to parent." Although these blogs are difficult to read, I do so because they challenge me to look at adoption from another's perspective and to consider how our adoption will affect all of the people involved in our upcoming "adoption triad."

Earlier in the weekend I visited and commented on one of the blogs that I find challenging to read. The blogger, Cassi, replied to my comment as did another blogger, Lori, who actually used my comment/question as a springboard for a long post of her own (also included below.) While we come to adoption from opposite sides of the table, both of these women were very respectful of me and willing to engage in dialogue without name calling or hostility. I so appreciated that.

My question/comment to Cassi:

First - as always - let me take a moment to thank you for sharing your story and for sharing so much for yourself on your blog.

Reading this post was very difficult. It's so raw and full of anguish. I can't tell you how sorry I am that you've had to endure this kind of suffering.

I don't know if you can or would choose to answer a question that occurred to me while I was reading your post: Would it have made a difference back when you were so young and scared if open adoption had been available to you?

Please know that when I say "open adoption" I don't mean getting a few pictures and letters every year from the adoptive family. I mean an actual relationship between your child, his adoptive family and you and your family. (Obviously in my way back when scenario hopefully you would have been the key player in the choice of adoptive family...it sounds like the woman who adopted your son was a nightmare.)

Please don't feel like you have to address my question if it makes you upset or uncomfortable. Or if you feel that I have crossed the line somehow in my asking this question (and if I have done so, I hope you'll please accept my apologies. It is certainly not my intention.) I would just be extremely interested in your perspective on adoption today in regards to a much more open process and relationship.

As a prospective adoptive parent, I don't ever want to make another woman feel the way that you do. I'm really trying to find a way to be as open and inclusive as possible and to move through the adoption process with integrity, honesty and compassion. I value your opinion in this regard.

Again, thanks for sharing and for allowing me a bit of space to ask my question.

Cassi's reply:

I'm so glad to see you back. And I hope you know I have a great respect for you and the courage you show by continuing to read and ask questions. I know, even for me too, it's hard sometimes to listen and learn from another side and so many refuse to do this. It shows great strength in those that do.

I'm not sure though that you will like my answer to your question . . . twenty two years ago when I gave up my son at birth, his was an open adoption. It was during the beginning wave of open adoptions and was actually a step ahead because I had two visits a year which was not common during that time.

His adoption remained fully open for the first two years of his life. After that, his adoptive mom no longer allowed visits so his adoption became semi-open with the letters and pictures I was promised.

In my son's fifth year, I received one picture - his kindergarten picture - and that was it. His adoptive mom closed his adoption and it remained that way for thirteen years until my husband and I reunited with our son when he was eighteen.

So I have literally been through open adoption, semi-open adoption and closed adoption in my experience and, honestly, none of those have ever, or will ever heal the pain I expressed here.

I say that because before ANY kind of adoption can take place, a woman still has to go through feeling as if she is not good enough or worthy enough for her own child.

The message to her is still one that places a "better" mom in front of her and encourages her to lose while another gains. It still places her in a position of not feeling confident as a mother because she is led to believe through outside forces, including society in general that she will fail at raising her own child without ever being given the chance to prove otherwise.

I know that open adoption is supposed to be easier for First Moms. That is what so many believe, but in truth, it can't take away that feeling of failure and loss that first must happen to any woman who gives up her child.

Those emotions can be so strong. They can rule our lives for years without easing. By our very nature we are meant to love and nurture our children. When that natural instinct is not only challenged but doubted because one doesn't have "enough" it's hard to move past that and believe in yourself again as a woman and most importantly as a mother.

Even now, all these years later, after raising my three other children, adopting back my oldest son, I still struggle with my insecurities when it comes to being a mother. I still fear someone else is better than me. That I will lose my children to someone else. That they will see another woman as their mother and I will lose that in my life.

Therapy and support groups have helped to recognize these feelings before they fully control me as they used to. But they still exist. They still, in weaker, can play on my doubts and fears. And, honestly, I don't think they will ever go away for good.

I just think, when we support a life where one woman's loss and grief is considered "worth it" to ease the loss of another woman who society views as more "deserving" of being a mother, we create an open, and never closing wound, for so many mothers out there who never even got the chance to try before believing they would fail.

Lori also responded to my question/comment:

"As a prospective adoptive parent, I don't ever want to make another woman feel the way that you do."


Have you ever considered just adopting the family? I know that it won't take the place of a child of your own, but in reality, will a child that is not ever really going to be "your own" ever take that place either?

Most babies really do have their own mommies and yet there are thousands of children and young adults (teens) that would love to have a family. Yeah, lots of issues, but guess what, mother issues are nothing compared to what the kids have once they are adopted.

These are generalizations, yes, but very few of the adopted persons that I know, don't want to know their "real" parents. I don't mean that in a bad way. I just, after reading many blogs, talking to many adopted persons, took my psychological training and realized that what the kids are saying is that they want the original parents. And mothers, we are saying instead of taking our children, be part of our family and help us keep our children.

I am not anti-adoption, I am massively adoption reform. There truly are some children that need homes. But because of the basic feeling that we all deserve, want, need to be parents, we forget the simplest of all things. To see what is about a child, not what is about us.

So, there are options, foster care (and never believe what is written in the reports, insist on meeting both first parents prior to adoption - social services are the best at telling tales that are not quite true) adoption.

Guardianship - always good because it leaves the child with all their own identity and still gives the family unit a reality.

Or, adopt the family or let them adopt you. I never had another child after my daughter and the one thing that I do find much satisfaction in is the children that have found their way to my doorstep. Many children. I never felt the need to have them call me mom and, in most cases, when they did I was very leary of them (they were usually the ones that I had to make leave and tell never to come back). I enjoy my nieces and nephews and have had a huge hand in caring for some of them for most of their lives.

But, Jennifer, the truth is, when you adopt you will cause this pain. Adoption is the breaking of an existing family. Family is not a piece of paper, a desire to parent, the need to have a child/procreate. Family is the unit, usually biological, that may not be perfect, may argue, fight, be poor, be rich, be dysfunctional, but most of all it is the love that only a mother/father and a child can share. It is looking in the mirror of your parents eyes and seeing you, the real you, whole and total. It is the blessing of knowing that your grandmother's arthritis might become yours one day and accepting that the dimple on your left cheek is not just a mark, but a badge of belonging.

That is what family is.

Adoption is uncertainty. Looking into your parents eyes and seeing someone that is different, not quite right, worthless.

Adoption is waking up hearing your child cry and knowing that it is not real. Spending countless hours and days looking at children in stores, malls, parks and schools, wondering "is this him/her?" It is the locking of part of your heart for fear of drowning in the hole.

Adoption is not the answer. It is the problem.

If you want a child, find one that truly needs parents. One that is from this country, with no living parents or relatives to be found, that has a real need to be loved. Accept them the way they are and know that nothing is perfect. Know that if you don't find this perfect child it is not a curse on you, but a blessing on the children.

But most of all, remember this, to parent you don't have to be the legal parent. You just have to love.

Just my thoughts.

I'm still having a hard time formulating my thoughts about the above dialogue.

What struck me most from reading Cassi's and Lori's words is the theme of worthiness vs. not being worthy.

The idea that I - as an adoptive parent - am somehow viewed by society as more "worthy" or "better" to raise a child than the child's mother is troubling to me.

I certainly don't feel that I am anymore worthy to raise a child (biological or adopted) than any other woman. Perhaps what I am at this point in my life is someone who is not more "worthy" but is instead simply at a stage/age/time in life where I have both the internal and external resources to raise and care for a child.

This has certainly not always been the case.

Had I become pregnant at age 17...there is no doubt in my mind that I was in any way prepared or capable of being a mom at that time. I can safely assert that I would have been too terrified to even think for one second that I was capable of being a mother. My fear would have won out and I would have been a teen mom who turned to adoption. Who walked through the doors of the agency and made/carried though with an adoption plan.

And, if I'm truthful, had I found myself pregnant at ages 25 or even 30, chances are that I would have been in much the same situation as I would have been at age 17. Even though in my twenties and at thirty I had many more external resources: an education, a decent job where I was making OK money, a good living situation, a career path, and marketable skills, there was one other thing happening in my life that would have prevented me from parenting:

I was a mess.

A complete emotional mess.

It was such a struggle just to care for myself - something at which I didn't do well for far too many years. Help was so needed back then, but I didn't know how to ask for it.

Couldn't ask for help and, sadly, didn't even recognize that I needed it.

Again, I am certain that in my twenties or early thirties I would have been so utterly paralyzed by my own terror and anxiety that I couldn't have been any kind of a decent parent to a child. The internal resources necessary to parent just weren't there. It wouldn't have been fair to me or to my child for me to have even tried.

So, speaking for myself - in a way I actually agree with both Cassi and Lori in that I would have felt that there was a "better" mom out there somewhere to raise my child, but unlike Cassi and Lori - not because anyone on the outside made me feel that I wasn't worthy to be a mom. Instead - because of all of the "stuff" happening inside of me at that time in my life - because of my own internal struggles and the sense of unworthiness and failure that already existed in me.

And so I feel for anyone who has been made by anyone to feel less than worthy.

That Cassi and Lori both felt strongly that they were made to feel by others as less than worthy is beyond awful. That the adoptive parents of Cassi's son broke their promises and kept her separated from her child for 13 years - cruel. That Lori was forced to surrender her daughter unwillingly - cruel and life shattering. That they have spent their adult lives trying to recover from these traumas is heartbreaking.

I do not want anyone to ever feel that way.

Still, it is difficult for me to think about turning away from the path that we're on. Difficult to think that there is a woman out there feeling somehow less than worthy - for whatever reason - be it not having the external resources to care for her child or the internal wherewithal or a combination thereof.

I have more to write on this topic, but I think that I need to take a break for now to once again gather my thoughts.

Anyone visiting - your thoughts?

And please - if you choose to share your thoughts - please be respectful to all parties involved in this dialogue. Thank you.


  1. Hi Jennifer!

    I gave my son up for adoption 30 years ago, I was only 15 years old. I did not feel unworthy to be a mom, I knew I would be a great mom, that was not the reason I gave my baby up. Here is my story, and another "reason" adoption is sometimes chosen.

    From the moment I realized I was pregnant, I KNEW I would give him up for adoption. My home life was very ugly, I hated living in that house of hate & anger. There was no way I was going to make an innocent baby grow up in that. The father of the baby was not in the picture, had moved & I had no idea where to. I was too young to move out on my own, I was only a sophomore in high school. (By the way, I got pregnant the 1st time I had sex ~ knew it was a big mistake...)

    My entire life has been effected by the loss of my firstborn child. Even though I completely made that choice on my own, it has been the hardest thing I have ever done. I closed off a part of my heart, and didn't even realize it. As Lori commented on another blog, I had to close that hole in fear of drowning in it. I feel the loss of my son in every cell of my body. I can physically feel that hole in my soul. I wish that no other mother would ever have to live with this pain, I would not wish this life as a first mom on anyone.

    I have been reunited with my son, only through emails & facebook, for almost a year now. This has, in ways, made the feeling of loss worse. I now know the person I missed out on. I have a son, but he is not my son. I have grandchildren, but they are not my grandchildren.

    Yes, I have a wonderful life, an amazing husband, 3 children & 6 grandkids, job I love, etc., but the loss of my firstborn child (and his children) is always there, always will be.

    I wish you luck in your journey to become a mom, I can't imagine what it would be like to be unable to have a child. I wish we could go back in time, and you could adopt the 15 year old pregnant me!


  2. Hi Jennifer,

    I just wanted to let you know I've read your entry and I need to kind of take the day and work through some of my thoughts here.

    It is so hard to come from the side of a First Mom, knowing the loss of a child and what it can do to you while hearing and understanding the loss and struggles you face as well on your side of the journey.

    What you are going through right now is just as real, just as important in your life as the struggles and grief I blog about in my life.

    So for that, I think a day of Christmas baking while tossing things around in my head is probably best before I answer any further.

    But I want you to know this post touched me and gave me even more insight to your side of things. Thank you for that.

  3. I don't know whether this helps, but. I sometimes regret placing my son for adoption, but his parents are fantastic--and if I hadn't picked them, I would have picked someone else. Being part of a pregnant woman's decision doesn't, I think, make you implicit in any evil act unless you behave unethically. Maybe my approach isn't sufficiently idealistic, but I don't think it benefits anyone to have you choose not to adopt when, firstmother grief aside, it seems like the right path for you. As I think you heard, my son's mom recently told me that she's not open to hearing about my grief--and she's still a great mom, and a good person. While I do admire the adoptive moms who can take the time to hear and think about birthparent grief, I don't think that you have to be hearing about it and suffering with it all the time. If you want to be open to that experience, you can choose when, and how much. Right?

  4. I'm an adoptee.

    I've followed this thread from Cassie's blog. Having never before read a blog written by a "first mother" with these feelings I'm in shock. Having never given a child up for adoption myself, I will try and reserve judgment and commentary although believe me I do have strong thoughts.

    For now, what I do feel the need to say, is that I find Lori's comments harsh and full of contradictions, with this comment being the most offensive to me "will a child that is not ever really going to be "your own".

    Believe me, I really am my parents own child! And I am talking my adoptive parents. Our family is real. I have had the typical mother daughter struggles with my mom that I never think for a second I wouldn't have had with my biological mother but the relationship with my father is something I am grateful for everyday of my life. There is no better father out there.

    Jennifer, not all bio parents feel the way Cassie and the others do. I have exchanged non identifying information with my bio mom and she made it very clear that she was not one of "those mothers" that pine away for me every day and has trouble getting out of bed every year on my birthday. You have no idea how comforting those words were to me! I can't even imagine how I would feel had her letter been of that of a emotionally ruined person. That was one of my biggest fears in contacting my birth family. Her healthy attitude, obvious confidence and intellectual way of thinking were what provoked me to recently take it a step further and actually find her and send another note.

    I grew up feeling special because I was adopted. That my parents had "chosen me". I knew my entire life and it was just part of what I am. I give my mom and dad much credit for presenting and dealing with the situation in a way that was, for me, healthy, loving, and confidence building. Was there ever curiosity? You bet! Were there ever moments of confusion? Of course! But, and I say this with honesty and care for your situation, I have always had the utmost respect for my biological mother. I consider her decision to give me up for adoption brave, loving, practical and smart. The only worry that I had growing up regarding her was that she was okay without me. If she had enough money and food, if she had a family to love her like I did. This care and concern coupled with plain old curiosity were what drove me to investigate and at this point I couldn't be happier with the results.

    I plan to discuss all of this on my blog when I have more time if you want to keep an eye out for it. If you do make it over I think you'll find me section "all about me" familiar.

    Enjoy the holidays and I look forward to investigating your blog further and most of all, remember this, to parent you don't have to give birth. You just have to love.

  5. No, not all parents feel the way Cassie and Lori have felt.

    But I think it's safe to say the majority to. It's just not natural for a mother and child to be separated.

    And yes, before you ask, I am an adoptee who had wonderful parents and an awesome childhood.

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  7. Oops! Okay let me try that post again haha.

    I think you bring up some very valid points, as do the other posters who commented. I agree that the seperation of mother and child is unnatural, but I don't agree that it necessarily makes the other forms of parenting, ones that are a result of this initial breakdown of family, any less legitimate or worthy or special or beautiful.

    Adoptive parents, as an entity, do not cause adoptions. If anything, we should blame the society in which we live, that tells both mothers and fathers that they are not fit to raise kids, when often times that is not actually the case. The idea of family in the USA is sadly diminished. I've spent more than half my life in another country in Europe, where adoptions aren't even heard of in the same context as they are here. My extended family and my friends in said country cannot understand my adoption..cannot understand my birthparent's choice for me. And that's sad. Not for them, but for us.

    I am one of the few adoptees who really is better off in her adoptive home. I have plenty of little siblings whose lives have been torn to pieces because my firstmother tried to raise them. But despite my personal situation- I am totally with you guys on many points. Sometimes I wish we, in the USA and CA and AU and NZ were a little bit more like my other home...where adoption when there is no abuse neglect or death is such a foreign concept that it cannot even be grasped....

    Hugs to you Jennifer!! Never doubt the road to which you will become a parent. It is not the main highway, that's to be sure, but theres something to be said about the beauty of sideroads :)