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Your Adoption Stories
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Scroll down for the latest in our ongoing series on the trials, tribulations, and joys of adoption. Email your own story, perspective, or disagreement to hello@theatlantic.com.

Show 8 Newer Notes

The Open Wounds of an Open Adoption, Cont'd

A reader responds to this heart-wrenching story:

While I can sympathize with the birthmother, as an adopted child myself, I feel as if a key component of the dynamic of adoptive children has been under-articulated. I grew up knowing I was adopted. It was always presented in very kind language: “She loved you so much that she wanted the very best for you.” My birthmother was always relatively present in this narrative. My mother showed me her pictures, shared the letters that they had exchanged, and I was given the opportunity to write to her if I chose to.

As an adult, I still have that freedom. However—and in many ways, I recognize this comes off as insensitive—I have no desire to establish a relationship with my birthmother.

An adoptive parent writes:

January 31, 2004 was the day that ultimately changed my life, when my young niece was killed in a car accident. She had been up all night getting high and attempted to drive home while exhausted. She had her two children in car seats in the back. One was just over a year old and the other one was almost three. It was a horrific car crash. They hit a tree at 70 MPH. The baby entered a coma, but the toddler saw his mother die. First responders were so devastated by the accident that two of them quit the field entirely.

I had been recently widowed and offered to take the children to raise. Their father said no. I didn’t know what happened to the children, as we were not allowed to see them. Then fifteen months later, the father was arrested on drug charges. The children went into CPS custody and ultimately to the paternal grandmother. After three months she gave them back, due to behavioral issues. They were like feral children, afraid of everything, wild and screaming. At the family meeting, I agreed to take the kids from foster care and raise them myself.

You would expect my family to be supportive, but you would be wrong.

Another reader tells her story:

I am an adoptee born in 1962, the Secrets and Lies-era, back when records were almost always permanently sealed, thus ensuring that birth parents and their biological children would never reconnect.

Do I love my adoptive parents? Yes, I do.  But there is a fundamental human need to know who we are and how we fit into the genealogical continuum of mankind. The Bible, for example, has pages of “begats” to trace lineage. More people than ever search genealogy sites like Ancestry.com trying to find information about their ancestors. It is a human instinct to yearn for this connection!

But not only is that connection denied to the adoptees of that era, we are castigated for even bringing it up. It is implied, or even directly accused, that if we have questions about our biological origins then we don’t love our adoptive families. That isn’t fair.

Parents can have two children or ten and love every single one of them. They aren’t asked to limit their love to one child. It is accepted that their hearts can hold enough love for all of them. Why, then, is it supposed that an adoptee seeking answered about their birth families couldn’t feel the same way?  Why do we have to “choose”?  

For the record, I found my birthparents at age 39.

That’s one of the lessons a reader, Kelly Robinson, draws from a tragic experience:

Biologically, I could have had children, but I chose to adopt instead. I adopted my beautiful baby girl at birth from a woman in Northern California I had met three months prior, when she was about five months pregnant. She was homeless and had two children, ages 6 and 10. Her boyfriend, whose sister-in-law had already adopted out a child, had influenced the birthmother’s decision to give her baby away. She said it was a case of date rape that had gotten her pregnant, and she feared the biological father might come looking for the baby. She and her boyfriend thought it was in the best interest of the baby to find her another family.

I went to California the day she was born. I fell in love with the woman who handed over this child to me, as I collapsed in the hospital chair overwhelmed with instant love.

A reader has a heart-wrenching story:

I was struck by the title of your reader note “Better Off Without Birthparents,” as it exaggerated the pain I already feel about my own daughter’s related sentiments.

I am a birthmother. I chose open adoption for my daughter 20 years ago, when open adoption wasn’t very common or studied. I was young, scared, with an unplanned pregnancy, and I was too poor to care for my daughter on my own. The process of making a decision like adoption when you are young, single, and pregnant and fears are high—not to mention hormones raging through the uncharted territory of pregnancy in your own body—is absolutely torturous. There is an immediate lifelong emotional connection being made with the child inside of you, but logic is trying to prevail.

I thought I was doing the right thing by her when I chose open adoption. She ended up in a family across the country from me, and I viewed it as granting someone else permission and the gift of raising her. But with open adoption, since I would still be in her life, I still viewed myself very much as her mother. I just saw it as her having two mothers. Equal but different.

What I didn’t realize when I made that choice was that I was rejecting myself.

A few readers can attest to that statement:

I was raised by wonderful adoptive parents. The bullies weren’t just kids, as your reader suggested. When I was 10 and my mom died, her sister asked to take some family furniture that she said should “stay in the family.” Fortunately dad put a stop to that. In high school, a teacher told us how if a mother had to choose between an adopted and birth child, she would always choose the birth child. Dad too intervened and had the teacher apologize to the entire class.

My brother had a lot of emotional issues that came from his genes. But despite his emotional demons, he’s a college-educated, well-employed adult. I have no doubt he would be a lout or in jail if not for how my father raised him.

Now I’m in my forties and met both birth parents. My birth father is a jerk. My birth mother is wonderful and we get along great, but it’s never the same bond as it is with the parents who raised you.

Another reader has a longer story:

I was adopted at birth, born in 1956 to an unwed Catholic woman in Michigan who entered into the arrangement through Probate Court. My records are still sealed to me. My adoptive parents were not well to do, and when my mom divorced my dad at around the time I was 10, we were even less well off.

My mother had emotional problems, and each time I asked her about my adoption, she would tell me something different:

Olga addresses “the adoption paradox”—that on average, children who are adopted have wealthier, more involved parents but also more behavioral and attention problems. A reader broaches the nature vs. nurture debate in this context:

I admire people who adopt and am glad there are people who put their resources, time and love into a child that is not theirs from a biological point of view. However, that child’s biological inheritance is a wildcard and the adoptive parents may not have an easy ride in that respect.

Another reader, turning to nurture, insists that Olga’s piece “missed a very important problem”:

I am the single parent of two internationally adopted children who are now adults. They both had issues in their early public school years—not related to behavior or attention problems, but directly related to bullying.