First Post: Being Open About Open Adoption: An Adoptee Blog

Logic versus basic human emotion

How can something that makes complete logical sense still hurt so much? This is a constant battle in my mind and has been for most of my life. I knew I was adopted before I had any idea what the word even meant. I knew that it somehow made me different and I knew that I was the only one in the family who was this thing, “adopted.” For the first decade of my life, I thought little of it. I was blissfully unaware of everything being adopted meant. I was simply the youngest daughter in a family of six. I didn’t know that I had gone by a different name for the first month of my life. I didn’t know that my biological mother was a family member and that everyone else in the family knew who she was, but didn’t know when or exactly how to tell me.

Your life is so much better than it would have been! You must feel so lucky to have gotten to be part of such a great family. Aren’t you glad you weren’t raised by a single mother? You must have so much gratitude toward your parents for taking you in like that; they didn’t have to do what they did. You were adopted? I bet your parents left you in a dumpster because they didn’t want you. Oh wow, you’re adopted? I had no idea (like one can tell just by looking at me, that I am this thing, adopted). These are all things that have been said to me over the years, and while some may be well meaning, they are still hurtful. Logic again comes into play. Yes, for the most part these people don’t have a clue what they are saying is insensitive. But it perpetrates a message that an adoptee should only feel grateful and lucky, that their life is so much better than it would have been. The reality is, no one knows. But what needs to be known is that a trauma occurred and it’s a trauma that no one wants to talk about.

I was about two months away from turning 12 when I found out who she was. My grandfather passed away unexpectedly and my parents felt that the time was right, or that their hand was forced because of the circumstances. I think they were more afraid of some family member accidentally making a comment and me finding out that way. Over dinner, and I can still remember what we had to eat that night, they explained who my biological parents were. A blonde lady who I had only ever vaguely known as my cousin was now the woman who gave birth to me. My biological father was not in the picture and hadn’t been since just after I was born. The people who had raised me as mom and dad were biologically my great aunt and uncle. Everything that had once been simple and straightforward was now complex and confusing and the extenuating circumstances did not allow me any time to process this information. The funeral was a few days later and we were flying out the next day.

Children are prone to saying things and not having any idea the true meaning behind their words. They are not old enough or mature enough to grasp serious situations. They do not fully understand what the word adoption means. Does that make the comment from a kid in my fifth grade class hurt any less? I’m now 26 and it still makes my jaw clench. “I bet your parents left you in a dumpster because they didn’t want you.” It’s like a knife to the heart. There are some things that are impossible to get out of your head. Logically, I know that boy had no idea just how hurtful his words were. Yes, he was trying to be mean, as kids will be, but I would like to think he wouldn’t have said that if he knew how it would stick with me for the rest of my life. While the words seemed simple enough said by a fifth grader, the implication they carried was not. What do people do with things they do not want? They throw them out. The things that end up in the trash, or the dumpster, are discarded items. Useless items. Unwanted, unloved, unneeded. As a fifth grader, logic wasn’t at the forefront of my thinking when processing that comment. At least not the kind of logic that would dismiss it as childish and trivial. In my mind, it meant that being adopted was equated to being left in a dumpster and that was equated to be unwanted, unneeded and unloved. Even now, when I do have the mental capacity to dismiss it as a nasty kid mouthing off, it still gets to me.

The week of my grandfather’s funeral remains one of the most difficult times in my life. I had a bombshell dropped on me and was then expected to know how to handle it in the company of my entire family and extended relatives, who already knew what I had just found out. Many members of the family did not know that I now had this information. I was tested by someone, who referred to other family members using their biological title, and not what they were to me through adoption, which is of course all I had know them as until a few days prior. I was 11 and had to cope with being tested by a family member to see how much I knew of my own adoption. Just like the comment from a fifth grader, there are some things that stick with you forever. I had no idea how I should act in front of this woman whom I now knew had given birth to me and then given me away. Should I have felt anger, resentment or hurt? I don’t know. I know I felt like she was always watching me. It seemed like all eyes in the family were on me, watching and waiting to see how I would act.

Fast forward 15 years. I’ve now become immersed in a network of fellow adoptees. Prior to doing some research online, I had known only one or two others who were adopted and had never had any conversations with them. I know that in this network I am considered one of the “lucky ones” to have had an open adoption. I know that some adoptees spend years trying to find their biological parents and some never do find them. I know that open adoptions are becoming the way things are done. I am realizing that being from an open adoption is something that is somewhat unique within the adoption world and that people want to hear what we have to say. This is just some of my story, of what I have gone through as an open adoption/in family adoptee. Is it perhaps easier to cope with, knowing who my biological mother is? I don’t know. I do know that it’s difficult knowing who she is but always having to hold her at an arm’s length, so as not to upset my adopted family. I do know that I carry a burden of responsibility to ensure the happiness of everyone involved in the triad. I do know that I try, with great angst at times, to please everyone even while knowing that someone is going to get hurt and that it will most likely be me. I do know that I feel guilty for being the cause of so much tension in the family simply because I was born.

Logically, I know that I have an amazing family with two parents and siblings. Logically, I know they love me and don’t think nearly as much about my adoption as I do. Logically, I know that my parents tried to raise me in the best way that they could. Logically, I am grateful to them for having taken me in and raised me as one of their own. At the level of basic human emotion, I also know that my mother chose to give me away. That she chose a college and career over being a single mother. That she saw me as the product of a failed marriage and didn’t want the burden of raising a child on her own. That she wanted me to have a better life than the one she thought she could offer, but couldn’t fully cut the ties. That she made the situation more tension-filled for everyone involved by keeping it in family. That even now, our relationship is still on her terms and that she hasn’t ever made an effort to fully get to know me, or to have an in depth conversation about giving me up for adoption.

So, is open adoption easier? Is it less painful? Is it the “right way” to go about adoption? I don’t know. I just hope to provide one adoptee’s perspective on it.


21 thoughts on “First Post: Being Open About Open Adoption: An Adoptee Blog

  1. I agree with Von! I’m so glad you’re telling your story. I’m also from open adoption and relate to the complexity you’re talking about. One one side there is the logic, but as a child in open adoption, I could never use it to overcome the emotion side. Even as an adult, it is difficult. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m looking forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That Girl says:

    I appreciate your candor and courage. I too am an adoptee, in reunion with my biological mother for 35 years, but we haven’t spoken in about 25. I was raised in a closed adoption, but had a great deal of loss because I wasn’t relinquished until I was five years old.

    I totally get the ‘gratitude’ part and the confusion on what to do with it. If you haven’t read Jennifer Lauck’s book ‘Found’ you may want to check it out. She has some very profound things to say about gratitude and loss.

    I don’t know where you are at with the idea of searching for your biological father, but it’s been something I’ve wanted for a long time. I feel so disconnected and ‘different’ from my biomom’s side, that I figure I must have some of his characteristics.

    I look forward to reading more – thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy says:

    I am the first mother of a 30 yr. old “open adoption adoptee.” So new for 1985,none of us knew just what we had gotten ourselves into. Today, the relationship with my daughter is full of problems…definitely NOT the “happily-ever-after” that open adoption is presented as. To anyone who is listening.and believes that open adoption is THE answer to all of adoption’s ills…my daughter *still* has rejection issues, abandonment issues, resentment, inability to communicate within personal relationships, and her relationship with us, her “birth”family,” is pretty much non-existent at the moment, for a variety of reasons. It was hell-on-earth for me, and I no longer have a relationship with the adoptive parents either. None of this worked out the way it was “supposed to.”

    Your voice is needed. Maybe people will start paying attention if enough of you guys start speaking up!

    ((Big hug))

    Liked by 2 people

    • Important always to remember that the way adoptees react to adoption is a ‘normal’ way to react to an abnormal situation. Some of you might be interested in “The Adoptee Survival Guide” available on Amazon where many adoptees tell it how it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I don’t know if I can say that enough.
    My daughter is a first mother who relinquished her daughter to her aunt and uncle (her father’s brother and his wife). It has been a nightmare for the past 5 years. It is the biggest mistake we’ve ever made.
    I look forward to hearing your story and learning from you.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Welcome to the blogging world. Thank you for sharing your story! It is so important for us all to hear it..many of our group members at Ohio Birthparent Group are navigating open adoptions and need the perspectives others who have experienced it can provide.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing your story! I’m an adoptive mom to two, and we have open adoptions with both of my children’s birth families.

    I find it interesting that you said, “That she made the situation more more tension-filled for everyone involved by keeping it in family.” Family preservation people stress that adoptions, if they have to happen at all, should be kept in the biological family. However, from my perspective, kinship adoptions often do have a lot more problems than non-kinship adoptions. My first experience with this was my best friend in high school finding out her “aunt” was really her sister, when we were in college. It really does seem like there’s a lot more secrecy and tension involved. I’d really love to hear your perspective on that.

    I look forward to reading your blog. Thanks again for sharing.


    • I think you’ve misunderstood the family preservation movement. Kinship care is quite different than kinship adoption. Care is having a family member care for your child while you are getting on your feet while still maintaining a relationship with that child as it’s mother. Grandma is still grandma, aunt is still aunt, and so on and so forth. Even when those relatives may be the primary caregiver momentarily. That is how a family is preserved.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. From my perspective, the family is not preserved at all in an in-family open adoption. Roles are completely changed, someone becomes known by a different title and everyone has a different opinion on which title is more important. The relationships between all involved become tension filled and no one quite knows how to navigate the situation. My adoptive parents initially offered to take me for a few months until my biological mother was back on her feet and that was the plan until about a month before I was born. I still don’t know what exactly caused her to make the final decision to fully give me up, but I do view it as a somewhat selfish one. It seems she did not want the burden of raising a child, but still wanted to keep me close enough that she could see me grow up and have access to me any time she wanted. On the flip side, my adoptive parents and family are very protective of me and have pulled away a bit from that side of the family. Relationships that were once close are now tense and awkward and no one knows how to act around each other. Not to mention, as I stated in the post, that I did not find out who she was until I was 11, right before a funeral. It was incredibly traumatic and I question whether there is a non-traumatic way to find out that a family member is actually the woman who gave birth to you.

    Liked by 3 people

    • An adoptive parent says:

      Hello, I stumbled over your blog because I was looking for adoptees of a true open adoption. Our situation is a family member placed her child with us, we all agreed to have an open adoption where everyone including the child will know. Furthermore, we would like contact between what we want to call “belly mommy” and the child. My question to you is: we know this was a hard decision for the belly mommy. She has seen the baby 5 times after birth and we agreed there is no limit or visitation plan – we want to play it by ear and be honest when any of us feel uncomfortable. The baby is now 4 months old. We are not as young as most parents so it’s important to us the baby will always have family. However, we have been told this would be confusing for the child growing up. Whats your perspective?


      • I think that being honest, if you can all truly adhere to that, is obviously very good. It’s a good goal, but sometimes it can be hard to be truly honest to yourself, and to the child, when you are afraid of getting hurt or of hurting someone else, like the biological mother. In my experience, and I don’t think anyone in the situation has ever had any negative intent, it becomes a taboo topic. No one wants to talk about it and it is a massive elephant in the room. If I could stress one thing more than any other, it would be to TALK. Communicate. Make sure it is known how everyone involved is feeling, most importantly the child, when they are old enough to express feelings on the subject. Too often, people stay silent in fear of not being understood or because they don’t want to hurt someone. It is going to be confusing for the child. They are likely going to go through many phases and emotions regarding being adopted and the situation they are in. Be open and accepting of their thoughts and feelings. Encourage them to talk about it and never tell them they should feel grateful or lucky to be adopted. If they want a relationship with their biological family, try and be understanding and supportive. Honestly, there is no “ideal” adoption situation. I am not here to tell people to never adopt. My life probably is for the better because I was, but that isn’t something I can say with 100% certainty and I will truly never know. I just wish I felt understood by my family and that they understood that I don’t always feel grateful and happy to have been adopted. I want people to recognize the traumatic side of it. Taking a child away from its mother at a young age has an impact that lasts a lifetime. Having an open mind is important. Keep the child at the forefront of all discussion and place their feelings above your own. They are the only one in the situation who had no say at all, but it is their life that is directly impacted.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. An adoptive parent says:

    Thank you, openness and honesty is the plan! So far it’s worked but we’re at the very beginning of a long journey. If you or others reading this have experiences in a truly open adoption with contact and visitation I would cherish your input.


  9. Wow, thank you so much for sharing your story!! Parts of it almost exactly match our story, there are so many parallels! I am a birth mom who placed my first born son with my uncle and aunt 20 years ago. My birth son is actually in the next room as i type with his best friend and my other son, who i raised. (He drove 12 hours to visit for a few days and to celebrate his 20th birthday with us.) I just shared your post with him, and he was shocked at the similarities. Our situation was supposed to be temporary as well… but things just didn’t turn out that way. He also knew he was adopted ever since he can remember, but only knew me as his cousin until he was 11. He was told who i was a day after his 11th bday, just before hopping in the car to drive from Michigan to Virginia to attend our grandfather’s funeral, which i was also attending with my two younger children. No one knew they had told him either, including myself. (As a matter of fact i was told the exact opposite, and that neither i nor my other children could say anything to him about it.) I spent 6 hours myself trying to explain to my 8 and 9 year old, who always knew the truth, why they couldn’t tell their brother that he was their brother. The list goes on, the similarities are insane… i said all that to say, i can relate, very much so, albeit from a different perspective, and my son (birthson) can as well. He was in shock as he read your story, he said he felt like he just read his whole entire life. Thank you, again, for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, those similarities are unbelievable! Same age, same relation… uncanny. How difficult for you and your younger children though, certainly not at all fair to them or to you to be put in that position. Thank you for sharing your story, it is great to know someone can relate and understand what it is like to be adopted in this manner.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I think it is great that you are sharing your story with others. Although I cannot specifically relate to your circumstances as your adoption was open, I can say that I am sure that as a fellow adoptee, there will be some feelings and thoughts that will be shared. I look forward to reading more about you. I am just starting my own blog as well, and have yet to write my first post. It will be coming soon! I am looking forward to reading and connecting to other adoptees or people whose lives are affected by adoption.


  11. Reblogged this on Adoption: Second Generation Birthmom and commented:
    Beautiful! Another adult adoptee who grew up in an open adoption is speaking. We have so much to learn from open adoption adoptees, I can only hope that more come forward to show that open adoption isn’t the miracle fix to the trauma of adoption. Open adoption is just as hard, as the closed adoption era.


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