Notes

First Drafts, Conversations, Stories in Progress

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 12 Newer Notes

The Open Wounds of an Open Adoption

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.