Where I Feel The Adoption Fraternity Failed Us

Just before Christmas, I shared a bit about how Ava was manifesting her adoption grief. Since that post, it’s like a flood gate has been opened in our home! 

And honestly, there are moments where I feel I may be swept away in the flood of emotions.

We have always believed and practiced absolute openness and honestly with both Ava and Hannah where their adoptions are concerned. But it’s not easy and there are some things they are too young to understand right now. It’s become like a precarious balancing act and one we were completely unprepared for. I feel like the adoption fraternity, the professionals who guide adoptive parents through this process, failed us on this level. They did not prepare us.

It’s not all hearts and miracles.

And I think a lot of potential adoptive parents go into the process unaware and unprepared for what comes after that baby is placed with you. I know we certainly did. For the challenges you will face after the honeymoon is over. For the hurt your child will experience. The trauma they will carry with them throughout their lives. I can’t help feeling that our social workers let us down in this aspect. It was all painted in a rosy glow of – just be honest with them and then there will be no surprises later on. As an adoptive mother of a 7 year old and almost 4 year old, I can emphatically state, it’s not that simple!

Well SURPRISE – both my children are now manifesting adoption grief.

Initially we incorrectly assumed that Hannah would remain untouched for the time being, because she is so little. And that perhaps her declarations of missing her tummy mummy and her tears were as a result of a bit of big sister worship. But we’re starting to see that perhaps we were wrong. I think being the younger sibling, on some levels, she has matured faster, grasped certain concepts faster because she has a big sister who talks to her about these things, who she can mimic.

The hardest part is that, like all adoptions, every adoptees story is different.

So while we have a rather open arrangement with Ava’s birth mom, we have no such arrangement with Hannah’s birth mom and it’s hurting her. She doesn’t understand how Ava and her birth mom can send each other voice notes and Ava can draw pictures and send gifts to her birth mom, but she can’t do the same. Last night she was in tears. Telling me she also misses her tummy mummy, wanting to know her name and why she can’t also send her a picture or voice note.

How do I explain it to her?

How do I tell her that her that her tummy mummy hid her pregnancy from her family, that no one on her tummy mummy’s side knows she exists? That it’s for that reason, we can’t have any level of openness with her. And believe me, it’s not from lack of trying. I have written letters to her in the past, here on my blog. Because in the information age, she can find me if she wanted to. I have found her, I’ve stalked her Face Book account and googled the shit out of her name. I’m sure she’s done the same with me, I’m not difficult to find. So I’ve written her letters here on my blog before in the hope she would see them. Telling her about Hannah and about how we would like to extend the offer of openness with her. I have even gone so far as to contact our social workers and ask them outright for it, out of concern for Hannah’s well being. I’ve been told NO.

Last night, after answering a million questions from both girls, we showed them their memory boxes.

And oh boy, did that open up a bunch of REALLY difficult questions!

First we went through Hannah’s memory box and I showed her the photo album I’d put together of her birth parents. Ava wanted to know how come there was a photo of Hannah with her birth mom when she was a toddler…… Deep breaths, we then had to explain that actually Hannah has a sister. Actually, Hannah has two sisters aside from Ava. Then Ava wanted to know who the man was in all the photo’s with Hannah’s birth mom. Oooh boy… bracing ourselves we explained that that was Hannah’s birth father. Miraculously, Ava has not asked about her birth father, but the time will come when she will and aside form his name, I have no information, no picture for her. 

Both girls have beautiful letters that their birth mom’s wrote to them after placement. They wanted to hear the letters, I started reading Hannah’s letter and then Walter had to take over because I was choked with the tears. When it came time to read Ava’s letter to her, we got through the first paragraph and Ava asked us to stop. She said she didn’t want to hear it, it was too hard, it made her too sad! And she’d like to save it till she’s a grown up. 

How do I guide my children through this?

Their stories are so unique and so different from each other, that each time I answer a question from the one, I land up hurting the other?

Where is my birth father? 

Why does Hannah have other sisters?

Why was Ava with you from birth and I was in a place of safety?

Each answer hurts the other child. I feel like I am navigating a shit storm. It is so incredibly hard to keep the openness and honesty going.

Insecurity is the one thing they both have in common!

Each time we have one of these conversations, initiated purely by them, they become insecure. They want to take turns sitting on my lap and being held by me. They want to tell me repeatedly how much they love me. Last night, after Ava was done with her cuddle, she told me she wanted to tell me a secret:

No matter what happens, you will always be my special mommy and I will always love you! 

I don’t want them to be insecure. I don’t want them to ever feel that talking to us about their adoptions would in anyway change the way we feel about them. I want  them to know that I will always be their mommy, no matter what happens that nothing could ever change how much I love them.

This part of adoption is SO hard and NOBODY prepared us for this! 


  • Kerry Sidwell Wilson

    Kerry Sidwell Wilson

    January 5, 2017 at 10:06 am

    Hi I was wondering – do you regret telling them about the adoption so soon? would their trauma be less if they did not know? I struggle to understand the idea of adoption trauma when they spent so little time with their birth moms? Is it not children’s sensitivity or possible depression with an easy target. I remember feeling depressed and different as a child and teenager (I have anxiety issues) and I was definitely not adopted (my sister could be my twin). I wonder about this also because of the possible health effects (have not looked for studies ) but the two parents I know who were adopted had heart problems later in life. I wonder how you prevent this?

    • The Blessed Barrenness

      The Blessed Barrenness

      January 5, 2017 at 10:09 am

      No I don’t regret it. Because to deny it would be to let them live a lie and I could never do that. Absolute openness and honesty is advocated by everyone in the adoption fraternity. They should always just know their truth. And the separation from their birth mother is on a cellular level. You’d need to read the Primal Wound to understand the concept. It’s not so much missing someone as it is missing a part of themselves that they can’t quite identify. It also relates to genetic mirroring which adoptees don’t get. It is WAY more complex that simply telling them the truth or withholding their truth.

    • The Blessed Barrenness

      The Blessed Barrenness

      January 5, 2017 at 10:12 am

      I think the worst thing an adoptive parent can do is to dismiss their childs trauma. This can ONLY create further issues down the line. I’d love it if Paula Gruben would jump in here. Her book which is a memoir about her life as an adoptee covers so much of this and after reading it, it made me even more determined to be as open and honest with Ava and Hannah always.

    • The Blessed Barrenness

      The Blessed Barrenness

      January 5, 2017 at 10:16 am

      Listen, I’m not an expert. I’m just a mother sharing her experience. But I always think that first prize is keeping a family together. Even when we went into the adoption process, I never wanted to feel like I was taking someones child. But keeping a family together is not always possible. I think armed with the right information, the trauma can be dealt with. One of the things we are doing is taking Ava to see a child psycologist who specializes in adopted children to help work through all of this. I think as an adoptive parent the WORST thing you can do is ignore it or pretend like it doesn’t exist or it isn’t a big deal. Because that is the fastest way to have you child feel even more insecure and distrusting.

    • Kerry Sidwell Wilson

      Kerry Sidwell Wilson

      January 5, 2017 at 10:19 am

      My dad is adopted and it is funny the things I would have loved to know about his birth parents but in his era, nothing was allowed. All we know is his mom’s name which was only released after her death. And as I said above I wonder about the health effects.

    • The Blessed Barrenness

      The Blessed Barrenness

      January 5, 2017 at 10:21 am

      I reader of my blog contacted me a couple of week’s ago after my first post on adoption trauma. She is now 50 years old and also adopted during an era of secrecy. Do you know what she said? That she’s had a hole in her soul her entire life, that a part of her has always felt missing because of her adoption and even now as a 50 year she struggles with it. She says she wishes her parents had done for her what we are doing for Ava and Hannah. The openness and the honesty because of the way her situation was handled, she has no chance of ever healing form it. That is a huge burden to bare.

  • ChevsLife

    January 5, 2017 at 10:20 am

    My heart breaks for you, because these questions opens up wounds that I don’t think they knew existed. And you are faced with such emotional turmoil for yourself, your husband and your daughters.

    I have no words of wisdom, but I am certain that you will find the right words and that your love will help them heal and understand as they grow older.

    I always thought that you can’t miss something you’ve never had, until my son started asking questions about his father. I realised that he missed the idea of having a father and it broke his heart when he began to understand that the absence of his father is by choice.

  • Marina Couperthwaite

    Marina Couperthwaite

    January 5, 2017 at 10:25 am

    As an adopted child I know all too well how hard this can be. There are loads of questions. My parents have adopted 6 kids and I was the first. Both my parents have some how managed to handle all the questions really well and I think our social workers prepared them very well too. If you wish to talk to someone I would be happy to pass on my mother’s details to you. Wishing you and your kids lots of love

  • Jonelle

    January 5, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    This is so beautifully written and I feel so much sadness for your girls. My dad died before I was ready to not have a dad and in some ways it’s the same kind of grief. So many impossible questions to answer… they are so very lucky to have you as their mommy. I can’t imagine how hard this is. <3

  • Candice Lombardo Nicholls

    Candice Lombardo Nicholls

    January 5, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Thank you ago for sharing and I totally agree. It was only after our placement that I started reading books on adoption and loss and trauma and it made quite anxious. It really is an area we were not prepared for but that I am now doing my best to process and help my daughter. It’s also one of the reasons I am hesitant to adopt again. My daughter is only two but she is already so independent and asks a lot of questions. We have already told her through books and reading about her adoption and also plan on being open and honest about everything. After reading your last two posts around this, I am more determined to prepare both my husband and myself for the what may lie ahead. It’s must be so emotionally exhausting for everyone. Thank you for sharing, sending hugs your way.

    • The Blessed Barrenness

      The Blessed Barrenness

      January 5, 2017 at 1:33 pm

      I think when we start out on the process, we get so caught up in having a baby that we pay less attention to what comes afterwards. Like you, I also only started educating myself on adoptees and their experiences after our children were placed. And ironically, it was very hard for me to read about the loss and the trauma and I almost didn’t want to believe it initially.

  • ella

    January 5, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Wow…I find this all so fascinating. Always wondered why my mom who spent her life in foster and family care would agree to look after her birth father in his old age… very enlightening

  • Melanie Blignaut

    January 6, 2017 at 11:35 am

    My mom was adopted, and I think she was a teen when she found out. I think it’s also worth mentioning that kids of adopted kids will also have a millon unanswerable questions. My mom is now in touch with her biological aunt, so a lot of questions have been answered at last. We’ve seen photos of my great-grandparents & I was unprepared to see how much I resemble my great-grandmother.

    • Sharon

      January 6, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      Definitely. It’s a legacy that will keep going on and on. The importance of genetic mirroring is so important to identity in ALL of us.

  • Nisey

    January 9, 2017 at 10:35 am

    I struggle a lot with this, we’ve also been very open with J from the beginning and told him age appropriately as much as we can. Unfortunately with his history and being removed from his family its not all roses and sunshine. He has suffered sever psychological issues and quite frankly I don’t believe his bio family is stable enough.

    My best friend at school found out she was adopted when she was 12 and her world fell apart, she felt as if her whole life was a lie so I was determined to be open and honest with J.

    In hindsight I don’t know if its been the right decision. He is conflicted and sad and longs for his bio family and I often wonder if ignorance isn’t bliss?

    I guess we just have to do the best that we can, its like I can go back and change the choices I made but I do wonder if they were in his best interests?

    I like how open he is and he will tell just about anyone that he’s adopted and didn’t grow in my tummy and that he has another dad and mom, but it makes me sad that he has all of that to deal with right now instead of just being a kid.

    • Sharon

      January 9, 2017 at 10:50 am

      It is very complicated. But I do still believe honesty is the best policy because trust is everything and I think we would destroy the trust relationship we have with our children if we lied, even by omission, about who they are and where they come from.


I LOVE comments, leave yours here:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: