On Adoption: The Words that Broke my Heart

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me at 5 days old & the outfit my parents brought me home in

I went home this weekend to hopefully find some more clues hidden in my adoption paperwork. What I found wasn’t a clue to lead me closer to what I was looking for. What I found instead broke my heart.

I’ve been reading and watching a lot about adoption since I began this process. Things from other adoptees, birth mothers/first mothers, adopted parents and psychologists. This process has become more than just finding out who gave me life; it is now a full on healing process, from things I didn’t even know I needed healing from.

You see adoption, especially as an infant, has always been treated as a positive in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to change that, I’m not wishing I wasn’t adopted,  but I think we need to begin treating it differently. We need to acknowledge that as wonderful as adoption can be, the only reason it is happening is because a terrible thing happened: a mother relinquished her child (often because someone made her).  It’s a traumatic event for both mother and child. 

Think about this: there are multiple studies that show how newborns immediately and instinctively know their mothers. They can pick out their mother’s breast milk out of multiple choices. They recognize their mother’s voice. That baby longs to be held by its mother, and that mother longs to hold that baby. When I had my girls, I remember the nurses bringing them to me and stating: “we tried to keep her so you could get come rest, BUT SHE JUST WANTED YOU.”  In other words: this baby won’t stop crying no matter what we do: she needs her mother to soothe her.

When a newborn is taken from their mother, there is a serious trauma that occurs. One that I’m now realizing has sunk in to my subconscious. It’s easy to say, Oh you were adopted as a baby so you don’t remember anything so you’re fine. On the surface it can appear that way, but deep down it affects us, even if we don’t realize it.

So what were the words that broke my heart? On several of the evaluations of my newborn self the doctors felt the need to include that I was a “fussy baby.”       When I read those words, all I could think was, “well what do you expect?”

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If adoption is part of your life or you want to know more check out these resources:::

If you like psychology and have an hour to kill watch this lecture by Paul Sutherland: he  explains this newborn/mother separation as a developmental PTSD.

Or if you prefer to read check out this book the Primal Wound, : which I still need to pick up 

If you want to know more but only have a few minutes: check out this link that I’ve shared once before:

 

 

 

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33 comments

  1. I share your pain. When I found my daughter, I learned she had been a ‘fussy baby’ when placed in her adoptive home just days after her birth. So fussy, in fact, that her 38-year-old ‘mother’ had to have family help caring for her. If this doesn’t qualify as child abuse, I don’t know what does.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thanks for sharing. Through all of this I just want to heal and let others know the reality of adoption. Adoption certainly has its place, but we simply can’t ignore the pain that comes with it. Many adoptees are taught to celebrate what happened instead of grieve and overcome. I did gain a wonderful family, but that doesn’t change what happened. I’m currently searching for my birth/first mother. any advice?

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  2. better that you were ‘fussy’

    my paperwork says
    “non-responsive does not blink on visual threat no social smiling no head lifting”

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  3. I wasn’t adopted until I was 8 months old…and I was gifted to my new family Christmas eve…Not only was I a fussy baby in this family but I fought long and hard to the point that I was removed and this adoption terminated 6 months in…as I went into failure to thrive…Next adoption took at 22 months…

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story. It seems like many adoptees are relating to this post. I hope that we can all speak out and help others understand that we need a safe place to heal. Blessings to you.

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  4. Al tho I was not adopted I was put in an orphanage, which severed the Mother Daughter relationship. I at that point shut down. Years later mom picked me up and I didn’t feel a connection and to add salt in my wounds she tells me I was put in the orphanage twice and it was like she stab me in my heart on purpose, I can’t recall her even hugging me till I was in my late 30’s early 40’s. Even tho I was not adopted I can feel the pain all of you have.

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  5. Thanks for sharing Rhegan! Love you Fussy and all! 🙂 You’re giving words and voice to so many people. Thank you for being willing to share this with us all! Even though I don’t know, I hope to understand and be a supporter!

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  6. I was 8 weeks old when placed into my adoptive home. When I started to search my parents gave me the maternity home nursery records that they had been given. The records state that I was “crying plenty” and had “fair days” for almost 12 days after birth.

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  7. So true! My aparents used to brag about how they had to put a finger under my nose to see if I was still breathing. I know that at some point I just shut down. (I was in foster care for 3 months before being adopted). So – this is my coping mechanism for trauma – I “act in” and shut down. My birthmother must have done the same thing. On my first birthday, she wouldn’t sign the adoption papers and her family threw her in a mental hospital. What a tragedy…

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story. Have you ever watched “A Girl Like Her”? Your story reminded me of that. It is about women from the 50’s,60’s, 70’s, who basically forced to give their babies up. A heartbreaking documentary. I think it can be powerful and healing for adoptees to see things from their perspective. Blessings to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. As a woman who was both adopted and then went on to adopt I have had the journey of both ends of the spectrum and all the journeys have been very different. My dad adopted me when I was 2. My mother is my biological mom. I never knew who my birth father was and throughout my life I have never had this “desire” to find him and to know about him. God gave me the most amazing dad in the world and I have had the best life. I have never been made to feel that I was not a part of his children even when my dad and my mom went on to have 3 kids together. I was and always have been his daughter. I know my fathers full name and his birthdate, but I have always felt that he made the choice to walk away, he knew about me as an infant, and so that was his choice. He has that same ability to find me and if that was the case he would. It is not a bitterness for me, but a matter of fact. I have 4 children, 2 bio and 2 adopted both from different situations. My daughter who is 7 was adopted when she was 2. I have had her since she was 6 mos, but there was a huge battle over her. Her birth mother was a drug addict and had mental health issues, but felt that her daughter was a pawn in a game with social services to get what she wanted. Keeping her was not a personal want for her, she made it clear that she didn’t want her, but a means to get what she wanted. She lost that battle, but I won. Along with that win though came a daughter who has faint memories of those first 2 years. We have dealt with it in therapy, but it is hard to tell your daughter the story of her birth without all the nitty gritty details and to not make her feel not loved or wanted but to have her understand that her birth mom just couldn’t take care of her. I am sure that at some point in life she will question things a little more and then we will cross that bridge when we come to it I guess. My son who is now 5 was also born to a drug and alcohol addicted mom and was born at 27 weeks. I got him when he was 7 weeks old. His situation was far different in that she loved her son so much and she wanted to be a mom to him so badly, but she knew that her demons were bigger than her and that his medical needs were more than she could ever manage. She had also been a “product” of the foster care system. She would come to my home 3x a week for visits because he was too tiny to leave while the process of adoption was moving forward. I knew that she loved him and that if life was different for her, that I would not have my son. One of the greatest moments for me as a mother came on a day when Isiah and I went to visit my mom at her place of work. She works for an organization that helps people with social service needs. We were in her office, which is right next to the lobby, and I saw Isiah’s birth mom walk in and sit down. I knew that she noticed me and so I shut my mom’s door because I panicked as to how I was now going to get him out of the office. He was 3 at this time. Then I sat there for a moment and wondered what would I want if I was in her shoes? I told my mom that I wanted to let her see him. I knew that she wasn’t going to cause a scene because she had been to my house when he was an infant and there were never any problems. I asked Isiah if he wanted to meet my friend Leah and he said sure. My mom went across the hall and pulled Leah into another office and explained to her that Isiah her son was in her office with me and she wanted to know if she wanted to see him. Leah started crying instantly and said that she would like to. What I was about to witness will always be one of the greatest moments of my life as a mom. She came into my mom’s office and we shut the door. Leah was shaking and trying to console herself. I looked at Isiah and said, “Isiah, this is mommy’s friend Leah can you say hi?” He looked at her and said “Hi Leah”. She was trying not to cry and then she asked me if she could give him a hug. I asked Isiah if he was okay with Leah giving him a hug. He said that he was okay with that. She knelt down and put her arms out to hug him. I will not lie that in that moment I was worried what would happen if there was that mother/son connection that he would remember and what I would do about that, but it passed quickly. Isiah walked into her arms and gave her a hug and she closed her arms around him, he nuzzled into her neck and held on. I will never know what passed between them in that moment, but I know that as a mother, it meant the world to Leah. She told him that she loved him and that he should always be a good boy for his mom. He told her “I love you too and I will be good.” He then walked back to my mom and sat on her lap. There was not a dry eye in that office. Leah told me thank you and left the office. I have not seen her since that moment and neither has my mom. I can only imagine what that moment did for her and how that will remain with her for the rest of her life. It was the greatest gift that I could ever have given to the woman who gave me her greatest gift. I pray for you my friend that as you walk this journey of highs and lows, happiness and sadness, that you find the answers that you are looking for. Maybe not the ones that you want, but the ones that God feels you need. I love you and I am so proud of you!!!!

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    1. Wow what a touching story! Thanks for sharing. I’m hoping for the best but wherever this journey takes me I know it is one I need to take. Thanks for your support and prayers!

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  9. Parents who are immature or damaged by a dysfunctional past may unintentionally hurt their beloved children. Gods grace can allow gradual healing for both the parent and the child. May all damaged relationships be available and open to this healing. That is an individual journey for each human being. May we have the courage to take the trip.

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  10. I was one of the ‘perfect’ babies. Rarely fussed, could be left to amuse myself, learned to self soothe very, very early. Could be because I was in several foster homes and was returned by the first adoptive family that were given me. They didn’t think I was perfect, were afraid that I might be biracial due to my dark olive skin. I was returned after a few weeks. I wasn’t placed for another two months, and by that time, I am sure that I completely learned that I could only depend on me. at nearly 5 months, I never cried…never reached out to be held. Never ate more than 4 ounces of formula and was potty trained at 10 months. I was the good adoptee. I think that adoptees go to one extreme or the other when taken from our moms.

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    1. Thanks for sharing. I think you are right about adoptees going from one extreme to the other. This was my immediate reaction as a helpless infant. As I grew older, I could probably be classified as as “good adoptee” as well. I was (and still am) a pleaser. If I think I have done something wrong or am in trouble for something I get physically sick to my stomach. I worry about putting rifts in relationships so I seldom make waves. I’m hoping as I grow and mature in understanding myself, that I can begin to realize that I can speak up for me. That conflict doesn’t equal a severed relationship. Blessings to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. As my adoptive father said many times, for the first six months of my life, I screamed and yelled through most nights. I was eight days old when I was adopted.

    Meanwhile, my older son, my biological child, screamed and cried every night for the first six months of his life. Soooo, it’s tough to identify the cause. In the case of my son, we gave him as much warmth and contact as humanly possible during all the hours we were not asleep.

    Now he’s 21 and he’s a terrific guy.

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    1. Certainly there are many babies, biological and adopted, who spend much time crying for a variety of reasons. Even so, it’s hard to deny that some sort of connection is broken when a baby is separated from it’s mother.
      Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad your son is doing well.

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  12. I relate to this completely. I (with my then husband) adopted a baby from Vietnam in 1974. On his paperwork he was described as “a relatively crying baby.” And he sure was. He screamed and cried and had night terrors from day one (he arrived with us when he was 9 mos. old) and had night terrors for years. If only I’d known then what I know now….

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  13. My son’s adoptive mother told me, ” We told him he was adopted from the beginning. His favorite bedtime story was ‘tell me about the land who had me. ‘

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    1. Sigh. He wants to KNOW what he doesn’t /can’t know. What he does know is that he didn’t come from his adoptive parents, much as they undoubtedly love each other. That this is his favorite story breaks my heart. No child should have to hear such a sad tale, but sadly many do. Of course, many children benefit from adoption and thrive because of it, but we must never forget that every adoption begins in tragedy.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you for this post. I never cried. I think I was in shock when my birth mother didn’t appear after I was born. The doctor wrote in his notes that he had never seen a baby who
    was so wide awake as me. I was waiting for my mother… I went into foster care…was moved a couple of times and adopted at 18 months old. Each time a child is moved, the trauma is deeper.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your difficult experience. I’ve heard many times the two polar reactions- crying or shutting down (no crying appears to be content and awake) People say we can’t remember but that doesn’t mean we weren’t deeply affected. I hope you are finding peace and healing.

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  15. I found documentation that said, “jittery upon stimulation and perspires more than a normal baby.” Yet, my own doctor refused to acknowledge that it was from trauma. This trauma also most likely occurred in the womb as I grew inside a woman who was extremely depressed and miserable throughout her pregnancy with me. Birth mother stated, “It was the worst pregnancy I ever had.”

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