Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Talk about a blast from the past.

The picture is one of my husband and I over two decades ago. In that short span of time before we knew anything of the loss of our oldest child. When our life revolved around school and friends and the innocence of youth.

That was us before the miracle of our first son. Before anyone made us feel unworthy, unable to give our own child everything he deserved.

The girl you see there is someone I have never found again. Never been able to reconnect with, have an association with.

She disappeared over twenty years ago. Became a stranger to me and those close to me after the loss of my son.

Even now. Even with therapy and support groups. With all I have done to learn the truth of what happened. With all the research and learning. I have forever lost that girl I once was.

Lost her on that day I walked out of the hospital with empty arms. When I believed I wasn’t good enough, worthy enough, for my own child. When everything I had believed and carried within me throughout my life became something that no longer mattered as I became THAT kind of woman. The kind who could give up her own flesh and blood.

There is a change, a shift, I believe happens, even today, to women who are led to believe, whether through so-called counseling or the message from society in general, that they are not good enough mothers for their children. That another woman. Someone better. Richer. Married. More successful . . . is the one who deserves to raise her child.

It’s an abuse against her self esteem. Her self worth as a woman, and most importantly as a mother.

It’s an accusation, without merit to base it on, that she will fail without ever trying. That her status, her worth as a mother, is below another woman’s. Unimportant to those that society views as worthy.

And it’s used under the excuse of doing what is best for her and her child.

Because that is what our world revolves around today. That is what so many believe . . . support.

In our loss of human kindness, we have decided that it is acceptable, even encouraged, to take away one woman’s worth to justify another’s.

We find no problem in saying it’s allowed to build up the self esteem of the woman desiring to be a mom at the sacrifice of the one who already is. No problem in creating a lifetime of doubt, insecurity and depression for one woman in a hope to chase away the same emotions from another.

And we base it on which one deserves more, by their accomplishments. Their financial worth. Their career stability.

On who our materialistic society deems as more “worthy” of a child.

I was deemed unworthy of my child. Deemed not good enough for him. A failure as a mother before I ever had a chance to try.

And yet his adoptive mother was deemed worthy of it all. She was seen as the one to be freed from her misery. Important enough to place me in a lifetime of my own misery to save her from hers. I wasn’t good enough . . . she was.

So I was sacrificed.

For her. For the belief it was worth it to end her suffering by settling it on my shoulders. By taking the woman I was and changing her into one who then knew loss, self-doubt and grieving.

Because, somehow, my being young and still in school and unmarried warranted that I take the pain while she was relieved of it.

It’s easy, as a society, to claim we have nothing to do with the loss of mother and child. To stand back and declare that our hands are washed clean of the acts that determines which woman suffers and which one gains.

But we aren’t innocent. We are the problem.

We are the ones who, in so many areas of our lives, base our decisions on who is more worthy by their power, their money, their status. Our voices are what feeds the practice. Our views that continue to accept that a mother deserves to be separated from her child simply because she doesn’t have “enough” compared to that other woman who so desperately wants a child.

You see it everywhere. Everytime someone talks about how great and brave a First Mom (birthmother in most of their talk) is for realizing her child deserved more than she could offer.

They just can’t believe how amazing she is. Are so thankful for the sacrifice she made so they, or another, could be parents.

What a wonderful woman she is. How great is it that she thought of her child first and realized he or she deserved more than she could offer.

What a miracle it is that she will take on a life now of suffering and loss and grief and self-doubt so that another woman can be happy and have that child she deserved.

Another sacrifice. Another woman forever changed. Forever left to see herself as not being good enough for her own child so that another woman could have what she “deserved” and be worthy of that very same child.

Every time you hear of a First Mom so “happy” because of her supposive choice to believe she wasn't good enough, rich enough, successful enough . . .

Every time you visit this blog, or one of the many other First Moms brave enough to step up and speak out against what society wants us to believe, I hope you will think of that picture of my husband and I. And of that woman who once was and will never be again because I too was led to believe that I was doing the right thing. That I wasn’t good enough, worthy enough, right enough, for my own child.

I hope you will remember that I was one of them. One who was sacrificed by society and the adoption industry to bring happiness to another woman while I was left with sorrow, loss and heartache.

That girl you see in the picture is the image of who I was before it was decided that my pain was worth curing the loss of another woman’s. That the insecurities, depression and grief I have lived with my entire life was worth it because it meant that couple who so desperately wanted a child of their own was granted their wish.

I was the sacrifice for another’s happiness.

I was the one who was left never able to find the woman she once was because I wasn’t worthy of being protected and cared about.

Instead, I was the one who deserved to lose because another was better than I was and deserved the happiness that came at the expense of my life full of pain.


  1. In this, we, the mothers, all share your pain. We grieve with you. Or at least I do.

    The picture on the very top of my blog is the only existing picture of my daughter, her father and I. He is dead, another adoptee that found his biological family only 2 years before he died. They have all the rest of the pictures. Pictures that have no value to them, only to me. Especially since the rest of our friends (we were foster kids) are gone, vanished like smoke as they turned 18, each promising to stay in touch and being told not to try to contact us. His foster/adopt family are mostly gone. The beloved brother died from some illness contracted in prison or shortly after getting out. The only father he knew dying shortly after that and the rest, they had no use for him - he was one of the broken ones.

    Broken, like you, like me, like all of us.

    I grieve with you.

  2. Cassi,

    I know, and I am sorry. For you and for me, for our husbands, and mostly for our children, the ones we lost and the ones we raised.

    Love and Hugs,

  3. Thank you for this, my tears are flowing freely,I wish I could express myself so well.

    "I was the one who was left never able to find the woman she once was because I wasn’t worthy of being protected and cared about."

    This is me also,at 61 and still locked in the guilt and grief. The younger self yearning for freedom and still wanting the forgivness for her supposed sin.

    Once again being told to be thankfull and happy that our daughter has found us but never once acknowledging the horror that we live with.

  4. Oh, yes. It has taken me years to start to realize that I will never get the original me back. Of course, there are some things that I gladly leave behind, but my heart, self-esteem, and confidence are not on the list. I just recently had the lightbulb moment that enabled me to see that I put so much pressure on myself to be the perfect mother now because I am always proving that I AM a good mom... that I always could have been a good mom... that no one can find anything to criticize in my parenting. Not a runny nose unwiped, a wrinkle in a shirt, a hair out of place on my kids. I just want to be human. A mom who doesn't always get it right but who is acknowledged nonetheless as being crazy in love with and connected to my kids. I don't want to be what "they" think I am, nor do I want to be what I have put such a burden on myself to show to the rest of the world. I just want to be me, but I don't know that it will ever be possible. I have always found it so interesting that as a woman who relinquished, I am "allowed" to be such things as brave, selfless, mature, and courageous, but that the flip side is that everything else about my character and person is not good enough... feared, actually. I'm not allowed to grieve or be confused or to question anything. Not allowed to feel that maternal connection to my daughter. Not allowed to be anything other than thankful. In other words, I'm simply not allowed to live as a person - only the shell of one who fits into what works best for everybody else...

  5. Lori - I unerstand those pictures that don't seem to matter to others. For me and my husband, we face that in the pictures of over a decade in my son's life. In that time after his adoptive mom closed his adoption up until what we found he posted himself on his MySpace page.

    We have no pictures, no vision, no clue of our oldest son from his Kindergarten picture to his High School Freshman picture. To his adoptive mom, she sees no importance in sharing these pictures with us. And yet for my husband and I, we would give ANYTHING to have copies of these pictures. To have that view of our son during that time in his life.

  6. Denise and Anon,

    you both expressed so accurately what I was trying to reach in my post. It's a loss, a pain for all us moms who suffered so great from the very start. And so many don't want to see that or understand that.

    Somehow they believe we are immune from such pain, such tears. Somehow they see us as deserving the pain while viewing others as good enough to be given a chance to move past their own pain from the loss of their children.

    We are sacrificed without thought. And our tears should show everybody just how much that affects us.

  7. ***I just recently had the lightbulb moment that enabled me to see that I put so much pressure on myself to be the perfect mother now because I am always proving that I AM a good mom...***


    Oh how much I understand that. That was me for so long, and even now in some of my weaker moments. I spent so much energy, so much time, trying to prove I was worthy of my children that I wasn't the failure they labeled me with when I was pregnant when I was pregnant with my first child and oldest son.

    I wonder, how can we, if possible, make other pregnant mom's understand how deeply it very well may affect them to believe they aren't good enough moms? How can we get the message out there to all that are lead to believe that adoption is the answer because they aren't "good" enough, that not only are they good enough and worthy of their child but the minute they allow somebody else to make them believe otherwise, they set themselves up for the kind of painful futures so many of us have faced after the loss of our own children.

    How do we fight against what society tells them and give them a real understanding of the pain that comes with giving up your child?

  8. Hi, Cassie,

    First - as always - let me take a moment to thank you for sharing your story and for sharing so much for yourself on your blog.

    Reading this post was very difficult. It's so raw and full of anguish. I can't tell you how sorry I am that you've had to endure this kind of suffering.

    I don't know if you can or would choose to answer a question that occurred to me while I was reading your post: Would it have made a difference back when you were so young and scared if open adoption had been available to you?

    Please know that when I say "open adoption" I don't mean getting a few pictures and letters every year from the adoptive family. I mean an actual relationship between your child, his adoptive family and you and your family. (Obviously in my way back when scenario hopefully you would have been the key player in the choice of adoptive sounds like the woman who adopted your son was a nightmare.)

    Please don't feel like you have to address my question if it makes you upset or uncomfortable. Or if you feel that I have crossed the line somehow in my asking this question (and if I have done so, I hope you'll please accept my apologies. It is certainly not my intention.) I would just be extremely interested in your perspective on adoption today in regards to a much more open process and relationship.

    As a prospective adoptive parent, I don't ever want to make another woman feel the way that you do. I'm really trying to find a way to be as open and inclusive as possible and to move through the adoption process with integrity, honesty and compassion. I value your opinion in this regard.

    Again, thanks for sharing and for allowing me a bit of space to ask my question.

    Best and peace,

  9. Cassi,

    Another wonderful, thought provoking post. I don't know why it still amazes me to see the words of my heart written so perfectly by another person. It seems that so many of us first mothers have lived the exact same life-after-adoption. I wish I was so eloquent, able to put my heart & soul into written words.

    Oh how I wish that we could join together and stop another mom from ever having to live this life of a first/birth mom. How can we make society care about honoring the bond between a mother & her child? To see past the "rainbows & flowers" of adoption and see the truth of adoption loss? To see that taking one woman's pain away by putting it onto another woman is not the answer?

    I join you in grieving for that lost child in the picture above, for all of us that have lost a part of ourselves to adoption.


  10. "As a prospective adoptive parent, I don't ever want to make another woman feel the way that you do."


    Have you ever considered just adopting the family? I know that it won't take the place of a child of your own, but in reality, will a child that is not ever really going to be "your own" ever take that place either?

    Most babies really do have their own mommies and yet there are thousands of children and young adults (teens) that would love to have a family. Yeah, lots of issues, but guess what, mother issues are nothing compared to what the kids have once they are adopted.

    These are generalizations, yes, but very few of the adopted persons that I know, don't want to know their "real" parents. I don't mean that in a bad way. I just, after reading many blogs, talking to many adopted persons, took my psychological training and realized that what the kids are saying is that they want the original parents. And mothers, we are saying instead of taking our children, be part of our family and help us keep our children.

    I am not anti-adoption, I am massively adoption reform. There truly are some children that need homes. But because of the basic feeling that we all deserve, want, need to be parents, we forget the simplest of all things. To see what is about a child, not what is about us.

    So, there are options, foster care (and never believe what is written in the reports, insist on meeting both first parents prior to adoption - social services are the best at telling tales that are not quite true) adoption.

    Guardianship - always good because it leaves the child with all their own identity and still gives the family unit a reality.

    Or, adopt the family or let them adopt you. I never had another child after my daughter and the one thing that I do find much satifaction in is the children that have found their way to my doorstep. Many children. I never felt the need to have them call me mom and, in most cases, when they did I was very leary of them (they were usually the ones that I had to make leave and tell never to come back). I enjoy my nieces and nephews and have had a huge hand in caring for some of them for most of their lives.

    But, Jennifer, the truth is, when you adopt you will cause this pain. Adoption is the breaking of an existing family. Family is not a piece of paper, a desire to parent, the need to have a child/procreate. Family is the unit, usually biological, that may not be perfect, may argue, fight, be poor, be rich, be dysfuntional, but most of all it is the love that only a mother/father and a child can share. It is looking in the mirror of your parents eyes and seeing you, the real you, whole and total. It is the blessing of knowing that your grandmother's arthritis might become your's one day and accepting that the dimple on your left cheek is not just a mark, but a badge of belonging.

    That is what family is.

    Adoption is uncertainty. Looking into your parents eyes and seeing someone that is different, not quite right, worthless.

    Adoption is waking up hearing your child cry and knowing that it is not real. Spending countless hours and days looking at children in stores, malls, parks and schools, wondering "is this him/her?" It is the locking of part of your heart for fear of drowning in the hole.

    Adoption is not the answer. It is the problem.

    If you want a child, find one that truly needs parents. One that is from this country, with no living parents or relatives to be found, that has a real need to be loved. Accept them the way they are and know that nothing is perfect. Know that if you don't find this perfect child it is not a curse on you, but a blessing on the children.

    But most of all, remember this, to parent you don't have to be the legal parent. You just have to love.

    Just my thoughts.

  11. "It is the locking of part of your heart for fear of drowning in the hole."

    My heart stopped when I read that sentence. That is hauntingly beautiful, and so exactly explains the closing of my heart after I gave my son up for adoption 30 years ago.


  12. ***It is the locking of part of your heart for fear of drowning in the hole.***

    I agree with Susie. This was very powerful and so true.


    I'm so glad to see you back. And I hope you know I have a great respect for you and the courage you show by continuing to read and ask questions. I know, even for me too, it's hard sometimes to listen and learn from another side and so many regfuse to do this. It shows great strength in those that do.

    I'm not sure though that you will like my answer to your question . . . twenty two years ago when I gave up my son at birth, his was an open adoption. It was during the beginning wave of open adoptions and was actually a step ahead because I had two visits a year which was not common during that time.

    His adoption remained fully open for the first two years of his life. After that, his adoptive mom no longer allowed visits so his adoption became semi-open with the letters and pictures I was promised.

    In my son's fifth year, I received one picture - his kindergarten picture - and that was it. His adoptive mom closed his adoption and it remained that way for thirteen years until my husband and I reunited with our son when he was eighteen.

    So I have literally been through open adoption, semi-open adoption and closed adoption in my experience and, honestly, none of those have ever, or will ever heal the pain I expressed here.

    I say that because before ANY kind of adoption can take place, a woman still has to go through feeling as if she is not good enough or worthy enough for her own child.

    The message to her is still one that places a "better" mom in front of her and encourages her to lose while another gains. It still places her in a position of not feeling confident as a mother because she is led to believe through outside forces, including society in general that she will fail at raising her own child without ever being given the chance to prove otherwise.

  13. I know that open adoption is supposed to be easier for First Moms. That is what so many believe, but in thruth, it can't take away that feeling of failure and loss that first must happen to any woman who gives up her child.

    Those emotions can be so strong. They can rule our lives for years without easing. By our very nature we are meant to love and nurture our children. When that natural instinct is not only challenged but doubted because one doesn't have "enough" it's hard to move past that and believe in yourself again as a woman and most importantly as a mother.

    Even now, all these years laters, after raising my three other children, adopting back my oldest son, I still struggle with my insecurities when it comes to being a mother. I still fear someone else is better than me. That I will lose my children to someone else. That they will see another woman as their mother and I will lose that in my life.

    Therapy and support groups have helped to recognize these feelings before they fully control me as they used to. But they still exist. They still, in weaker, can play on my doubts and fears. And, honestly, I don't think they will ever go away for good.

    I justs think, when we support a life where one woman's loss and grief is considered "worth it" to ease the loss of another woman who society views as more "deserving" of being a mother, we create an open, and never closing wound, for so many mothers out there who never even got the chance to try before believing they would fail.

  14. Cassi, I am one of those mother's that never had another child. We went to specialists and they could not help.

    I found out, as I move through my education in clinical psychology, that many mother's with our loss never have another child because, no matter what anyone would like to believe, we simply can't convince our bodies what our minds already know.

    I knew I was a good mother. But my body reacted to the hiding part, the part that believed(s) that I could never be a good mother and should not have a baby.

    I wish that I could undo what I did. But, time moves in one direction.

    The idea of having another child was unthinkable until last year, when I was actually pregnant for about three weeks. Of course, things flew apart when I miscarried the only other time since my daughter at age 16. Too many hormones became a danger to me. At least emotionally. That and now, at 48, I am not in the same place as 12 years ago with all the specialists.

    The idea that I failed, intellectually, is bull. Emotionally, it eats at my soul a little bit each day. Even though I know I was a good mom. I wish my daughters adopters had been adoptive parents instead.

  15. Hi, Cassi,
    Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful reply and for your candor. You said in your post, "I'm not sure that you will like my answer to your question..." Please know that I value your thoughts and am trying to see/hear what you have to say not through the lens of like vs. dislike, but to simply be open.
    What heartache for you that your son's adoptive mother broke the promises she made to you and to him. I can't help but wonder what your lives would be like today if the adoption had remained truly open and you both hadn't had to endure so many years of separation.

    There's more I'd like to write about this, but I want to take some more time to digest yours and others' comments and to gather my thoughts.

    Again, I appreciate the space and the dialogue.

    Best and peace,

  16. jennifer
    I've lived through almost 20 years of a semi-open to an open adoption and as far as I am concerned it's not the doesn't reduce the pain. Yes, she has great parents, yes, they sent lots of photos during the years, yes, we have met, talked on the phone, emailed and now facebook. But I barely know her and it hasn't taken any of the pain, grief, loss, low-selfesteem, depression etc away...WE should have stayed together - end of story.
    AS a society we must keep mothers and their children together - unless there is truly no way to do this - ie death, illness or abuse.
    We also must do our best to support women in third world countries who suffer in terrible poverty to keep their children close, healthy and educated. If the money used to support the US adoption industry was focused on supporting the needs of children first, the world would be a different place tomorrow.

  17. Hi, Anonymous,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question. I appreciate your effort and your thoughts, although it saddens me to know that you are struggling. I truly hope that you can develop a closer relationship to your daughter in the future.

    Dear Cassi & Lori -

    I wrote a post in response to the above exchange of comments. It's not a very complete reflection of what's going on in my mind right now. I hope to write more soon, but if you have the time I hope you can visit.

    Best and peace to all,

  18. cassi,
    after reading the first few comments,
    the word 'sacrificed' left me with a visual image
    and yes, i too was sacrificed
    to the demented god of adoption

    my hand and feet were not bound- but my mind was

    they won when they pulled the daggar out of my chest, the warm blood dripped from it's edge to the cold floor

    the woman i was that day died at the hands of those she trusted

  19. My baby was sacrificed to the holier than though married, couple, by the way she was married to a man who was 25 years her senior. She was made eligible by applying for a baby and being eligible according to the rules of adoption the total of years between two adopters had to be under a certain age. Luckily,there was the twenty five year spread for them. RED Flags..flying high but "THEY" were married and soon divorced after acquiring my son.

    Sacrificed for what so another woman could play mother. She played and thats the key word. Now women a allowed to be single, allowed to have birth control, and allowed to see their precious baby's face at birth. My son was withheld from me. Even though I had private health insurance.

    My mother sacrificed me and my baby, along with his dad who is dead. Too bad my son NEVER got to know his dad.

    He does know me and his family he knows the truth from my mouth. I was there, I lived it no one else can tell him and I knew I had to find him to let him know I had always loved him! I found him, told him, loved him, helped him, and now he knows, he knows what happened and how we were both sacrificed.

  20. In response to Jennifer... just a thought, but:

    - Wouldn't open adoption make it worse, "taunting" the biological mother by giving them the view of their child but never allowing them to have an actual relationship because of the legalities of adoption (the adoptive mom still has the most power in open adoptions), and because of the fact that the biological mom is not seen as "mom" since she's not actually *raising* the child?

  21. In response to Mei Ling's comment ~

    In my case, I don't think I could have handled a completely open adoption. Seeing him, knowing him would have been too painful. As I was growing up, living without my son, I used to imagine that I could write back & forth with his mom, get updates on him, know if he was still alive, was healthy & happy.

  22. Such a moving post and so eloquently explained.May I link it, it's a must read for all?

  23. Hi, Cassi. I have been following these comments and have some questions: What do you mean you "adopted back your son?" When you met him when he was 18 did he divorce himself from his adoptive parents? How was his life growing up? How is he now? Thank you.