Please Stop Believing that Your Child Will be Happier Without You
The adoption industry loves to tell mothers considering adoption how “happy” their adopted children will be when they are relinquished to their new families. It’s the guarantee of the perfect family; happily married, vetted by the home study, ready and wanting to parent, fine homes, good jobs, and usually, more money. I was recently really reminded of this during the recent Twitter discussions as the “happiness” of not yet born and already adopted children were proclaimed to be “happier” by the birthmothers and birthmothers to be.
It doesn’t seem to matter that adoptive parents are not automatically excused from the trials and tribulations of live. Somehow, we have got it in our heads as a society that the issue of infertility or the desire to be parents and not have that fulfilled gives a couple a fee pass. As if there is a check box of life’s difficulties that get checked at one point and if you get a big X by infertility then you are immune from all other issues.
Of course this is not true and while many adoptive parents are lovely people who are good parents, I know enough adoptees that get adopted by people that really, seem seriously, bat shit crazy. I have heard stories of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse at the hands of adoptive parents (and Yes, I KNOW biological parents are also abusive, but adoption does not protect a child from abuse that has not occurred yet). I have heard stories of adoptees who always felt like they didn’t fit in or that something was missing, even if they had super excellent parents. I have heard stories of adoptees whose parents got divorced, remarried, lost their jobs, got sick, had cancer, and even died. In fact, I personally have mourned the loss of friends who were adoptive mothers and lost battles with cancer leaving their adopted children behind without any mothers.
No Guarantee of the Adoptees Happiness
Being adopted is no guarantee that your child will be happy.
Now of course, a mother wants to believe that her child is happy. It’s kind of key to the whole mothering experience. Pretty much everything we do is supposed to be for the benefit of our kids, and that pretty much goes across the board for any mother; adoptive, natural, parenting or relinquished. But as I say, if you relinquished you ARE giving up any control you really have to ensure that your child is happy.
If you relinquish and you think your child needs something, then there is a good chance that you might not be in the position to say or do anything about it. Oh, there is the possibility that the adoptive parents could really honor your place in your child’s life and value your contribution. There is a chance that they might listen to you and take your advice, but I have to say, there is a greater chance that they will not. After all, they DID go into adoption because they wanted a child of their OWN. They did not go through the hopes and pay the adoption fees so they could follow your lead. Or, to quote the haters, birthmothers cannot have their cake and eat it too.
Say you relinquish your daughter to adoption and say, it’s a good open adoption. Say you actually know who the family is and you talk to them regularly and see your child over the years. What happens, say, if you think that Adad is being too strict over what your daughter is allowed to wear? What if she’s really artsy and creative ( like you, so you “get her”) and wants to look artsy, but Adad has a big conservative stick up his butt? Do you think you will be in the pace that you can tell him to ease up on her? Do you think that he wants YOUR advice on how to parent? Do you think that maybe after you give your advice he might think ” Yeah right.. and you would up pregnant and couldn’t take care of your kid! I’m not listening to your advice!”
You Don’t Know How Your Adoptee Will Process Adoption
I have four kids and they are all pretty different in some ways.
Scarlett is sweet, but tough as nails and totally accepts herself and stands up for what she knows is right. She’s loud and a nudge and teases until you want to kick her, and then she will laugh.
Tristan is insanely sensitive, very hard on himself, more of a perfectionist and can’t take frustration and criticism. I spend a lot of time telling him that it’s OK to make mistakes and it’s not the worst thing in the world to have someone tell you how to improve, but just talking about issues makes him squirm.
They are full siblings, 20 months apart, and lived in the same environment their whole lives, yet, if they were adopted out, they would each have very different ways of feeling it. They had different ways of processing that their brother was lost to adoption.
The point being, Tristan might be the kid who is perfect and never talked about adoption and seemed happy, but wasn’t. And Scarlett might talk about it all the time and seem not Ok, but really be more accepting. I don’t really know since it ‘s all hypothetical, but I can tell you that when I was pregnant with them and when they were tiny babies, I had no idea WHO they would be and HOW they might handle something like being adopted. We can know the sex of our children, but there is not prenatal test to say whether or not they are “hardy” or “sensitive”.
On Twitter we went around and around about how the negative stories do not cancel out the happy ones and visa versa peppered with “not all adoptees feel that way”. I know that, I really do, but the things is.. if you actually do have a choice, why would you want to take that chance??
Your child MIGHT be a really intuitive adoptee who feels a great Primal Wound. They might be really different personality wise than their adoptive parents and it might show or they might not care. Maybe they will feel lucky on Gotcha Day or maybe they will freak out at every birthday and everyone will assume they are over stimulated rather than feeling the loss they experienced at birth. Why would you take that chance?
When we are pregnant, we don’t pump our own gas or dye our hair. We stop smoking and drinking and eat right. We watch our medications, don’t eat sushi, go in hot tubs or ride roller coasters. There is a mass of other “don’ts’ that I forget since it’s been a while, but I think even goat cheese is “bad” when you are pregnant now. Bottom line, we do not do all these that MIGHT somehow endanger our babies. Even if it’s like .00096% of all pregnant women who eat unprocessed cheese get the weird amoeba that could cause blindness in the fetus, we don’t take that chance. So why are we encouraging mothers, who really do NOT have to relinquish to endanger their babies with maternal separation?
What Scientific Research Says About Adoptees and Their Happiness
I just made available two studies I had on adoptees and the risk of suicide.
- One is from 2001: Adoption as a Risk Factor for Attempted Suicide During Adolescence.
- The other is recent: Suicidal Thoughts in Adopted Versus Non-Adopted Youth.
Then, I have another older post that discusses an 2008 study Adoptees More Likely to be Troubled from this adoption research here: The Mental Health of US Adolescents Adopted in Infancy
The 2001 Adoptee Research Study says:
Sixteen adopted adolescents (7.6%) and 197 nonadopted adolescents (3.1%) reported suicide attempt(s) in the past year. Counseling in the past year was reported by 36 adopted adolescents (16.9%) and 521 nonadopted adolescents (8.2%; P < .001). Adolescents who attempted suicide, compared with those who did not, were more likely to be female (67.6% vs 49.1%) and adopted (7.5% vs 3.1%)
The 2008 Adoptee Research Study says:
Nevertheless, being adopted approximately doubled the odds of having contact with a mental health professional and of having a disruptive behavior disorder.
The 2012 Adoptee Research results state:
For later adoption versus non-adoption, the estimated difference in suicidal thoughts was 2.9% higher during young adulthood for later adopted youth, 3.4% higher during early young adulthood and 3.5% higher during adolescence.2
WHY WOULD YOU TAKE THE RISK???
I mean, Ok, the suicide rates risk are slight, but what if your child is that 2.9%. How is it “better” to even expose your baby to the possibility that it could happen? I was thinking about these studies today and the people I know, in real non adopted life, who have lost a friend/ family member etc to suicide. Sadly, we know a few. The I thought about the birthmothers I know who have had their adopted child take their own life. They clearly outnumber the real life suicides. Now granted I do know a lot of other birthmothers, but I know a lot of regular people too and still, the adoptee related deaths are higher.
And it’s not just about mental health and suicide, it’s about all the other things that go into the adoption experience. Why take the chance on someone else? Why put that all on your child that they must be alone in life and learn to deal without you. Why trust an agency or even a couple really, you have, maybe known a few months? Unless you are sure that you are going to beat your kid or poke the with hot coals or lock them in a box, seriously, they have a good chance with you. Or sure, maybe they will have a big house and people will love them, but will they KNOW them like you know your baby. Your baby is made of you. She is part of you. No one else can take your place to her.
If you want to truly do what’s best, then you will find a way to parent and not take that chance, because there is no guarantee that your child will be happier or even just happy if adopted. Why take that chance?