Friday, May 2, 2008

Adoption Warfare

Why do I call it adoption warfare? Because in war, there is a winner and a loser. There are tactics used, strategies practiced to ensure one side walks away triumphant and the other side falls.

And yet how could this be in adoption? A “win-win” situation? An option based on love? It sounds good, almost convincing if you are on the outside looking in. But what about those of us who have been on the inside, fought the battle, and come out bruised and battered.

We are the ones who know the tactics and strategies used in warfare are practiced in adoption as well, and for the same reason, to win. They are well hidden, impossible to catch unless you know what you are looking for. But they are there. Used over and over again on young, unknowing women facing one of the hardest decisions in their life.

At sixteen, I faced this battle with the billion dollar adoption industry and lost. Their tactics were subtle, but effective. Until my son was born. Until that moment in the hospital when I first held him in my arms, looked into his eyes, felt a love I never knew existed.

At that point the “facts” I had been fed during my sessions with the adoption agency faded away into nothing more than forgotten whispers. This was my son. An intimate part of me I had never known before. My entire world shifted in that moment. I was suddenly a mom and giving him away to someone else to raise was the very last thing I wanted to do.

But my knowledge of warfare at sixteen was limited. I didn’t know how to fight against the giant who had manipulated my life for so many months. I didn’t see where their final, and ultimate, battle resided.

In that hospital, my doubts surrounding adoption became fact. I began to realize what had been around me the whole time . . . parents who would help and had themselves fallen instantly in love with their grandchild. A group of supportive friends who I knew would stand beside me, regardless of my decision.

I wanted my son.

It should have been that plain and simple, but it wasn’t. The adoption agency had already planned for this and was well prepared. They had been building their own defenses against this development long before the hospital. I just didn’t know it.

For months before the birth of my son, I was encouraged to get as close as possible to the couple hoping to adopt my child. It was the best thing, they told me, for myself and my son. Forming that relationship would help him, help me and in the end be better for everyone.

So I faithfully followed their suggestions. I trusted them, believed everything they told me was in the best interest of myself and my baby. I allowed the couple to pick their own names for my child rather than naming him myself. I invited them into the delivery room, didn’t protest their constant visits to the hospital. It was after all what was best for my child. I knew this because that is what the “professionals” told me.

And they were good, very good. Because in the end my son went home with that couple. Not because it was what I wanted but because I felt trapped, unable to disappoint these people who I had grown so close to. I saw their excitement first hand, knew how desperately they wanted a child. How could I deny them that. How could I take away what I had promised them. Ruin the joy I saw in their faces, heard in their voices.

And the war was over. I went home without my son and with a huge guilt I have not yet been able to push myself past. For years I privately hated myself, lived with shame and disbelief as I struggled with the fact I had ultimately given my son up not because I believed I was incapable of giving him what he deserved but because of the feelings of his adoptive parents.

What kind of mother would do that? How low of an individual could you be to make those choices when it came to the life of your own child? I was messed up, screwed on my priorities somewhere. It was the only explanation I had for my actions.

And then the day came when I held my son again and the feelings I had buried, denied and struggled with for so many years hit a point where I could no longer control them on my own. So I began to search, learn about adoption. No longer with the innocence of a child but that of an adult who had suffered a loss unlike anything she’d ever known.

And I discovered the ugly truth.

Those feelings in the hospital, the very ones that haunted me for so long, were exactly what the adoption agency was counting on when they encouraged me to form such a close relationship with my son’s adoptive parents. There was documentation on this. Books written about it. Details given as casually as sharing a favorite recipe.

Over and over again, as my heart ripped apart, I read the ugly words. Adoption experts proudly encouraging the contact between the natural mother and adoptive parents to ensure she doesn’t change her mind. To make sure she feels exactly what I did and keeps her promises, not because of her own belief for the well being of her child, but because of an awareness for the adoptive parents feelings.

Warfare, just like I said. You don’t care about the aftermath, about the state of well being of those you leave behind. You care about winning. About reaching that triumphant stage at any cost.

And I sit here on the other side . . . the loser. I see my son and his losses too and try desperately to make some kind of sense or reason out of it. My pain is enough but knowing my son’s pain is unbearable. Two lives forever changed by the tactics and strategy of warfare – better known in the adoption industry as coercion and manipulation.

So I read everything I can find. Web sites, blogs, others stories. Every book there is I buy, read it from cover to cover. Always searching, hoping somewhere out there I will find the right words to give my son to take the pain away. Something, anything, that will erase his battle scars and help him start the process of healing.

And as I search, as I learn, I find I must share what I discover with others in the hopes of saving another young women from suffering the life-long suffering of adoption warfare. If not for herself then for the innocent baby who has no voice, no choice.


  1. YAY - another voice in blogville - blasting the myths of adoption.
    Look forward to seeing more posts.
    Hugz from Down Under.
    Poss. xxx

  2. Oh Cassi (((((((((HUGS))))))))))
    I am so sorry you were betrayed by adults into handing over your baby boy...
    I wish you the very best in your search..How long has it been ?

  3. Jane -
    Thank you. It's been just over twenty years since I lost him. I was one of the early open-adoption "experiments." I luckily, though, am not searching for my son. We were reunited in Dec. 2006. Unfortunately, as often happens, he's backed away. I try but can't even imagine what he's going through right now. All I can do is continue to be there for him and make sure he always knows I'm here when and if he ever needs me.

    possum - I have followed your wise words for a little while now through your blog and others and I think you are an amazing person.

  4. ((((((((((((((Cassi)))))))))))
    Ah - thanks for you kind words.
    I wish I didn't have to experience what I did - to have the 'words' - but I'm forever grateful for finding those in Blogland that are now telling it how it really is.
    Look forward to 'seeing' you around.
    Poss. xxxxx

  5. How painful for you.And how cruel of them!Because of our high AIDS rate, adoption has always been about adopting an orphan.But when I went through severe PND and considered giving up my child, I thought about how I could never do it.How I'd worry about the aparents-are they feeding her enough,are they beating her, does she know I love her but it was either she left or I went insane and couldn't raise her or her brother etc? That's when I started thinking about people like you.Single moms of any age, who 'had no choice' but to do it.And the imagined pain is probably nothing compared to the pain you feel.

  6. Hi Cassi

    Just stumbled across your blog and love your writing and the way you're handling such difficult issues.

    I have a question to ask. You were obviously an unmarried teenage Mom when it wasn't fashionable to be one.

    Since then times have changed and writing this from London, I can tell you that we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe. Children of teenage parents are disproportionatly higher represented amongst the prison population, substance abuse and more likely to have teenage pregnancies themselves. This has lead to a call back to the old time values of shaming teenagers into better behaviour.

    I wanted to know from you what you think about the situation - what would make it better? If you have written about it in an earlier post please forgive me as I haven't read everything - just point me to the correct post!


  7. Cassi - Not much to add other than to say I love you and I am so sorry for what adoption has done to your family. I challenge ANYONE who says that adoption is about "love" to look a mother like you in the eye and tell you that.

    Sending lots of love your way -


    P.S. You need to get the book, "Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, & Despair" by Miriam Greenspan. It is truly a life altering book, especially for those of us who must endure an ambiguous loss and the disenfranchised grief adoption brings into our lives.