This is Adoption Happily Ever After

I wrote his late in 2012 as a guest post for a blog that is now in hiding. Got told this again today on Twitter so went to find it, and saw that it was down. So getting it back up!

A Perfect Adoption by the Books

People often say to me, “I’m sorry your adoption experience was so bad, but not all adoptions that bad,” or something along those lines.

I usually find this kind of comment dismissive, but rather than focus on being insulted, I point out that, in truth, the relinquishment and subsequent adoption of my son was actually picture perfect. I am a perfect example of exactly what adoption is when it works just as it is suppose to.

Adoption When Things Go Right

I was 18 when I became pregnant in 1987 and 19 when I relinquished. Out of high school, but struggling with college and life. Dysfunction, but not insanely horrible middle class, blue collar upbringing in suburbia. Living a rather unhealthy lifestyle, making poor choices, but I had good intentions, just a lot of inexperience and a too positive outlook tempered by questionable self esteem. A relationship I shouldn’t have been in produced the pregnancy and there would be no wedding, but just a blue eyed boy with a shock of black hair nine months later. My reasons to place my child for adoption still stand today as “acceptable”: too young, not ready, uncompleted education, unmarried.

My agency was progressive, welcoming, ever so kind. Adoption was in the middle of re-marketing itself from the shame filled enterprise of the BSE to what we know of it today. Nineteen eighty-seven was right in the middle of the crossover years, like a bad marriage- something old, something new.

It was a traditional closed adoption, but I got pictures for the first year. I didn’t meet the people who would be my son’s parents but I picked them from what they called a “parent profile”. I didn’t know their names, but I was given photo albums filled with smiling family.  I had a counselor that I liked, we talked about how hard adoption would be for me and only the strong can be determined enough and how good it could be for my son. The hospital staff was prepped, my experience; gentle; I held my son, we took pictures, we said hello, we said goodbye. No one held a gun to my head, I signed the papers, convinced I would be one of the strong, the selfless, the better mother and sacrifice tears for my son’s betterment. I knew the agency was good, adoption had changed, I was lucky and now, my son would be, too.

And we were, really. My life is good. I went back home, went back to school, lived the life I was supposed to. I moved, married, had another son, divorced, lived the life of a single mother, married again, had two more kids. We have a house. I work from home. I love my neighborhood, my town. I am grateful for my friends, my extended families.

And my son? I found him when he was 15, the oldest of three- the two boys adopted, the youngest daughter IVF. Living with parents that clearly loved and provided, big house, opportunity..exactly what was supposed to happen. I contacted the agency, wrote letters, got an update with pictures, saw his face. They sort of opened the adoption, such a kindness, but no identifying information, everyone’s happy.  Six months, 9 days before his 18th birthday I contacted him through MySpace and he called me mom. He is welcoming, accepting, wonderful.  His life was good, we rejoiced in reunion. We are now 8 years in, and we never really had issues, it’s always been smooth.

Adoption: and They All Lived Happily Ever After

This is the way adoption that a 1987 adoption is suppose to play out. If I had the opportunity to have had an open adoption and was told that was best for my son, I would have done that, too. I’m sure we would have had some measure of success there too. But no matter how perfectly my son’s adoption played out, no matter how perfectly we executed our roles and did the right thing with the best of intentions, no matter how happily ever after, it does not change the reality of what is left. The perfect execution of an improper act does not make the act any less wrong. It does not undo the damages done.

What does a perfect reunion of a perfect adoption look like?

Don’t get me wrong, I know I am lucky. I know I have it really good, but I am still always wanting. My son is now 25 and lives hundreds of miles away. For the first time in my life this is actually “normal”. This is no different than if he had gone to college and stayed away, a grown up in his own right, as he should. So sometimes, I let myself pretend this is what our story is, normal as if I had patented him.

Of course, I didn’t and those years are gone.

I have never again seen my son on his birthday, though he did come to my 40th. He came to my wedding, but I worry if I will be welcomed at his. We have never spent a holiday together as I refuse to count Birthmothers’ Day as a real holiday. My youngest children think him as a god, yet still ask if they can email him, beg him to visit. When they talk to him, they get so crazy excited, it’s both heartwarming and breaking in one fell swoop. We texted, we talk, there are never enough visits. Life is busy and I am lucky if I see him once a year, but when we do its great. I mean really great, and then I go home and stalk the Internet for new pictures of him.  As I write this, I realize that it sounds like an open adoption of today.  We know we are the lucky ones, right?

What a "perfect" adoption ends like

But no matter how perfect it all was, is, can be…I still see so much that just shouldn’t have been, so many things I was never told about adoption that were important. I still know I was used by an industry that only wanted what was best for them.  If it was best for my son then at my wedding, I would not have heard, again and again, how my Max told guests that it was the first time in his life that he didn’t feel like a freak; he fit in. The perfect adoption means you never stop juggling the feelings of happiness that you can provide something of value to your child combined with the deep disparity that you should never have had the right to deny him with what he needed in the first place. I could have parented and it would have been worth it.

No Matter What; Adoption Hurts, Continues to Hurt

I believe my youngest son looks a lot like his oldest brother. He is ten now, but I have never seen a picture of Max at that age. I have no idea what he looks like from ages 1 to 14/15.  Someday I hope to, but Max will have to make that happen. I have never met his adoptive parents and they did not opt to correspond with me directly. I was asked, would I find it painful to see pictures of my child from the years lost?

Yes, it very well could bring tears to see the proof of all that missed watching him grow up. Yet, what I have learned in the past 25 years, is that there isn’t really any way to avoid some kind of pain and loss in adoption. It hurts me that I have not seen them and I have no idea if my oldest son and his younger brother look alike at the same ages and it will hurt to see them: Hurts if I do, hurts if I don’t.

No matter how perfect the outcome, it still hurts. The only way to avoid the hurt is to avoid adoption, and it’s too late for that, for me.

The adoption of my son was perfect, I did everything the “right” way and still; the adoption of my son caused unnecessary pain and was wrong. This is way I speak out against adoption today. It’s not because I had a “bad experience”, it’s that it was a “good experience”, and yet there are too many tears and the worry never stops.


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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine,, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

28 Comments on "This is Adoption Happily Ever After"

  1. Goddessoflubbock | January 27, 2013 at 10:47 pm |

    I’m trying to figure out what you want.

    You got pregnant at a time that was inconvenient for you. Instead of having to drop out of school and work dead end jobs you slipped back into your old life. Your son was then raised by what by all accounts was an excellent family.

    He didn’t fit in? My best friend, with her flaming red hair and super quiet personality always felt like a stranger in her rowdy, dark haired bio family. I always felt like a finger in the glove of my family. Imagine my surprise to learn at 31 I was adopted!!

    You can’t have it both ways, and it’s not the fault of some “them”. You made a decision. A difficult one. You can’t blame others now.

    • I’ll spell it out very simply for you: I want women to be able to make a true informed choice based on reality and facts; not the message supplied from the adoption industry. I want Adoptees to have their civil rights restored and to be treated equally. I want to take the profit out of adoption. I want to see it be what it was meant to be: finding homes for children that really NEED families as opposed to manufacturing situations that separate mothers and children to transfer their parental rights. It’s not about what did or did not happen to me or you or even my son.. it’s about how we move forward and make it better for the future. It’s not that difficult of a concept.
      I CAN reject blame that is not mine to carry. YOU cannot force that upon me. There was other motivations that shaped my so called “decision” and I will not take that blame.
      So you were a late discovery adoptee and you’re Ok with that?

      • Goddessoflubbock | January 28, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

        It didn’t change anything. My parents were the people who raised me.

        Every decision we make has consequences. As a child decisions are made for you. My birth mother made a decision based on her situation.

        There is no perfect anything. Something to consider.

        • So if I get food poisoning at a restaurant, but you had a lovely meal, does that mean we should disregard my experience? What if 30% of diners got food poisoning but you had a lovely meal? 70%? At what point do we decide that maybe there’s a problem with the restaurant/institution in spite of your good experience?

          Or let’s look at this another way. I’ve never had a problem with getting a passport because of my amended birth certificate, but other adoptees have. Similarly, lack of access to my original birth certificate was not a problem for me in terms of reunion, but it’s a huge problem for others. Should I decide there’s no problem with birth certificates just because it hasn’t affected me directly?

          Some adoptees are fine w/out a medical history … until they discover they have a mysterious illness that doctors can’t make sense of. I know adoptees who have nearly died because of lack of relevant information, but I’ve always been pretty healthy … so far. Does that mean lack of adoptee access to medical histories isn’t a problem?

          Systemic problems w/ the institution still exist even if some people are okay w/ how their individual stories played out.

        • So because there is no perfect anything I should just what? Shush and be happy? Silly thoughts. I have never been an apathetic person.

          • I get so frustrated when people say, “You can’t change the past. You need to move on.” I have moved on! (Moving on is not the same thing as having amnesia or ceasing to process one’s personal experience of adoption.) I am not trying to change the past or rewrite my life’s story. Nor am I trying to rewrite anyone else’s past-tense story. But I AM working for change in the present. I am trying to change the current system, which is flawed and broken in oh so many ways.

            Much appreciation for the work you do, Claudia!

            • Yeah, I get that a lot too. No, I am not stuck living in the past. No, I am not miserable and letting this one thing ruin my life. I am very happy to be working towards a better future. I’m not sure how people think o change anything if they are so concerned with everyone being quiet and docile. And yes, this is a test!

        • Patricia Pritz | April 29, 2013 at 9:45 am |

          Hey Goddess, Without your birthparents, you wouldn’t exist at all and your so called parents wouldn’t be able to pretend to have created a child so both of you could be at least nice to the people who gave you your wonderful existence together.

          • Yes, No human being should have to suffer their whole life from giving life to a child when they’re just children themselves. I got pregnant at 14, the first time I ever had sex, and without my permission also and have suffered the loss of my baby for 42 years now. Nobody should have to be punished for something they’re forced to do. If this society had put a bullit in my head, it would have been kinder than making me live with this constant pain and grief.

    • After reading this piece, along with her story and other pieces I finally get Claudia’s motives and mission. I think there is a lot of guilt and sadness behind her relinquishment that has been and will be with her the rest of her life (along with all birth/first parents). That has fueled her motivations to educate the public of what she has gone, is going and will go through in her life. She has been told by so many people to keep quiet and seen so many other women to keep quiet that its frustrated her leading to anger. I apologize if at any point Claudia that I have insulted or upset you.

      Personally I don’t agree with everything she has written or said nor do I agree with her approach that comes across as an extreme opposite of what the adoption industry does. But I understand and respect where she is coming from even though I don’t believe she has much sympathy or cares to understand other perspectives hurt. Again though I get why that is the case. The other perspective has put her and her side down so much that they have brought this out in her and her side. I’d be just as pissed off about the subject if I was her.

      I really hope that as a society we support birth/first parents moving forward instead of telling them to suck it up and be thankful for what they have.

      • Yes, Greg, pretty much just yes. Not insulted at all.. we all have a place where er must start and your quest for understanding is to be noted. I do wish more people would try as you have.

        Though I have to say… I am actually a more mild form of the extremes. 🙂

        • You have logic and information behind your perspective. You aren’t some bat shit crazy birth/first mother talking (writing in this case) out of her ass. 🙂

  2. When I talk about my daughters adopted parents I use a pseudonym. It’s her story to tell that her dad was a pedophile. But there is another reason I don’t tell that story often. That has little to do with the fact that it was an abomination that I didn’t raise her. I don’t want people thinking, well she has an ax to grind because unlike MOST adoption experiences, she got the oddball bad set of parents. Bullshit. Most adoptive parents have buckets of garbage that comes with them. At least half and I suspect more than half end in divorce. So these children are being brought up in single family households anyway.
    My daughter would never take having been brought up by me over the life she had. Times were tough but she likes the woman she has become. And so do I. I believe I would love the woman she would have become with me, too. But that ship has passed so it’s best that she is happy with today.
    If any person would have told me that their was a chance that my daughter would have 1. Missed me 2. Been mistreated 3. Have problems with identity 4. Received a different life, not a better life or 5. Needed me, that another mother could never replace me.
    I WOULD NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS LET HER GO. People told me the same lies the girls are getting today. It’s sickening that coercion is still going on. Keep up the fight, we need you now more than ever. I can feel the tide turning.

  3. I admire the way you write and your perserverece in educating people in the loss and pain of adoption

    I surrendered my son in 1972 and we also have a great relationship, but most people will never understand the long term effects from the loss both mothers and the children they carried for 9 months and then the death they both felt when they were separated from one another.

  4. Psychobabbler | January 28, 2013 at 11:40 am |

    This so clearly portrays how loss persists in adoption, even when on the surface it seems like a win-win situation. Thanks for re-publishing.

  5. Great post Claud ~ I’m glad you put it back up. I also say that my adoption story is a successful one in that we both did go on to have great lives. However, why can’t people see that a “happy ending” doesn’t negate the deep loss of losing a child or your natural family. A happy ending doesn’t negate the fact that even though we are now a part of each others lives, my son and I are both denied a copy of his original birth certificate. Our happy ending was brought about with no help from the state or the adoption agency ~ thank God for the internet so that we were able to find each other despite the laws.

    I think it’s heartless of people to negate our experiences because we “chose this” life for ourselves and because it was so long ago and adoption is so different now. No. It’s not. Even if it was, the pain and loss felt now is no different than what mothers felt 70 years ago. Why does it bother people so much that we simply want mothers to be fully informed when considering adoption?

    • “Why does it bother people so much that we simply want mothers to be fully informed when considering adoption?”Because if mothers are fully informed mothers would NOT likely “choose” adoption. Simple answer.

  6. Eileen Burke | January 29, 2013 at 10:01 am |

    Important post. I too had a “perfect” adoption story. I did everything right. I think it is so important for those of us with “happy” adoption stories to speak out. I am often dismissed as being bitter and angry (as most of us are) and it gets old quick. It’s so important for people to understand that even when things go right, there is still so much wrong.

    • I agree with you Eileen … from the adoptee point-of-view. Even in the so-called “good” scenarios, there is almost always loss in some part of the equation, to one degree or another. Or sometimes the “good” example is one in which it simply isn’t possible to evaluate the damage yet, because the adoptee is still young or for other reasons. Things can change; an adoptee who falls into the “no problem” category today might sing a different tune tomorrow if he or she is denied a passport or develops an urgent need for medical info or simply has one of those emotional awakenings that sneak up on so many of us: one day we think we are fine, and suddenly we realize we aren’t. Trauma can affect people in dramatic ways even when they are unaware that it is doing so. And then there’s the generational impact; sometimes an adoptee claims to have no adoption issues but his or her children feel the lack of a piece of their history or see an impact that the parent can’t/won’t acknowledge. My story is another one that could be categorized as “good.” I had great adoptive parents and have had wonderful reunion experiences. I “pass for normal” and function relatively well in the world. But that doesn’t mean adoption hasn’t affected me or that it’s “all good.”

  7. So glad you found this and reposted it. What the adoption industry hails as “perfect”, can best be described as unacknowledged and denied loss. Perfect post.

    • It is, indeed, the perfect post. I’ll go a bit further and add that, while adoption may result from unavoidable circumstances (the only way it should ever result), the idea that a human being’s identity should ever be shrouded in secrecy is criminal. Truth should be honored no matter the circumstance. You want/need to place a child for adoption?? Fine…that child should have the truth, the whole truth, so help you God.

  8. Goddessoflubbock said “As a child decisions are made for you.”

    True. As a 16 year old, it was decided by everyone that I would be a ruinous mother to my son, and that a married couple would be perfect parents for him.

    It wasn’t true. With a small amount of help, I could’ve been his mother, and the best one for him. As a result, he wouldn’t have grown up feeling something was wrong with him when all he had was a distinctive personality (one like ours, his natural family).

    When you write about choice, I think you are assuming that all options are laid out on the table, and we choose after some consideration.

    But what actually happens is that the display of options becomes loaded. Some items are lit up brightly, they are marketed. Some items are hidden. The benefits to your child from adoption are massively promoted. The help available to you as a very young or lone mother are hidden, so you think there is no help.
    Everyone faced with a huge challenge needs help. If the challenge feels insurmountable – because you aren’t strong (because you’re young, or poor, or have no confidence in yourself) – and it seems there is no help, you wobble. In slides the smooth adoption marketer, with the promise of sheer happiness for your child, and you begin to lose your bearings. You lose your anchor, on what is right.
    Only after reunion did I finally understand what was right: I should’ve kept my son. Despite feeling like there was no way I could.
    Only after reunion did I see how I had lost him – not by choosing to give him up for adoption, but by being confused just enough to have loosened my teenage grip on him so that the stronger, practised hands of the adults could play their life-chess with him.

    My son and I belonged together. We both know that.

  9. …and by benefits I mean “benefits”.

  10. Life is about choices, dont have kids if you cant support them. Simple logic.
    dont blame on adoptees. Take responsibility for your actions.

    • Amina.. Really? That’s you’re great contribution to this post?
      1) Who the hell is BLAMING adoptees? If anything the mothers are commenting about how they FEEL BADLY for saddling their children with this.
      2) “Adoption” is SEEN as “taking responsibility for one’s actions” in fact, it’s PROMOTED like that. It’s advertised as a great solution that is win win for all involved.
      3) So glad that EVERYTHING in YOUR life is SO perfect and you NEVER made a mistake so you can look down upon everyone else who might have had a bit of trouble. Must be nice. So you NEVER EVER, not even ONCE, had sex when you were not perfectly willing 100% ready and bale to have that child? Bet you did.. and THAT makes you EXACTLY the SAME as ALL OF US.. except for one little sperm! Oh and here’s a news flash for you: adoption NEGATES choices… that;s the role of the agencies.. to narrow down the options until a mother feels she has no choices but to relinquish because SHE IS TOLD IT IS BEST FOR HER BABY.
      4) Compassion and understanding: good thing in life that perhaps you might want to look into. Have a great holiday!

  11. Eva Phoenix | March 22, 2014 at 9:53 pm |


    I am a birth mother. I reunited with my son but we are having trouble and I am trying to find some help so my son and I can grow a good long term relationship. I was told that reunions are emotional mine fields, and we did step on such a mine earlier in our reunion history but eventually we overcame that. My best friend thought that maybe this is our chance for both of us to heal – but my son and I stepped promptly and inadvertedly on another mine.

    I would like to share in other birth mothers’ experiences with reunion and growing a long term relationship with your grown child. Did it all go smooth, did you have problems with each other? Does your child have problems from the adoption ? Did you get help in the reunion process
    and if so from where or what? Did you find out anything that you would do differently in the reunion process, did you learn something that you could share with me and others in reunion, that might be helpful to us?

    thanks to everybody who can help enlighten me in my quest.


    • Just reunited with my birth daughter of 12 years; had her to myself for 3 days. I was so proud of her, she’s beautiful, sweet, & smart! While I want to spend more time with her, my family needs me as well. So when our time together ended I held it together for her sake then had a long cry. Next time I’ll have wine on board to help smooth the edges☺️

  12. I am an adoptee who had a reunion with my birth mother as well as met my biological sister 20 years ago. The reunion was emotional and joyful as we exchanged pictures and emails. We spent time in her town as well as mine to see each other in person. She met my children and picked out a grandmother name for them to call her. She was reluctant to tell her husband and children about me, but eventually she did. My biological sister visited me too during that time.

    Six years later, my husband and I were invited to my biological sister’s wedding. I was concerned about the fact that my presence would mean my birth mother would probably need to tell her and her ex-husband’s families about me as well as her friends. In the years preceding our reunion she had only told one person about me. I suggested to my bio sister that I be introduced as a friend of the family and she said no way. My birth mother seemed fine at the wedding although afterwards she did an about face in our relationship. She disappeared. Letters went unanswered and phone calls weren’t returned. She made trips to my home state but never contacted me. From time to time I was able to make contact but I think her feelings toward me had turned to dislike. In the meantime I found my biological father’s family and connected with them. Many of them live in the same hometown of my birth mother and bio sister. I recently returned from visiting them. I also visited with my bio sister and met her children who are 5 & 7. I didn’t contact my birth mother or make arrangements to see her, as she doesn’t seem to want me in her life anymore but I received this email from her the night before my trip. It had been years since I had heard from her. After sending it she went in person to see my bio sister and told her to have nothing more to do with me. She didn’t comply. It sounded like a secondary rejection–an attempt to roll the clock back 20 years. Here is her email.

    “Your sister tells me you plan to come to my hometown.
    I don’t feel that it’s good for me to see you. I frankly feel you have a need to punish me for my giving you up for adoption. Our relationship consists of you needing to “out” me in front of family and friends for my “sin”. Then I must constantly make amends to you. You are my judge and jury and I am unforgiven.

    I feel you truly hate me and have no compassion or understanding in your heart for me. It’s all about YOU.
    Now all you want to do is remind me and everyone who loves me what a terrible person I am. “Hey did you know your grandmother abandoned me when I was a baby. What do you think of that?”
    Be honest with yourself. You really don’t want to connect to our family but only to embarrass and punish me.
    I’m nearly 70 years old and I don’t need this. You really don’t need to come.”

    I enjoyed my trip, my sister, and my new family very much. However my birth mother’s letter shook me to the core. What happened? Why does she perceive me as a villain? I read “The Girls Who Went Away” to better understand her. Is there anything I can do except to walk away?

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