Thursday, September 27, 2012

Two Kinds Of Help

So, we've all been there.  We've all heard it at some point or another . . .

When you dare to talk about adoption outside society's accepted views of rainbows and sunshine, you will be told, more than likely many, MANY times, that you need to seek help.  That you are somehow sick and unhealthy for your views and opinions and should seek counseling so you can just be "happy" and accept adoption like everyone else does.

It's ironic, to me, when someone makes such a suggestion because I have actually sought help twice in my life.

The first was when I was sixteen and pregnant and trusted my adoption counselor to help me make the best decision for myself and my unborn child.  At that time, I never imagined that their counseling was the same counseling they offered every pregnant mother who walked through their doors.

It was not about my own personal situation.  It wasn't about me or my child.  It was about how best to convince me to see adoption as a loving, selfless option so I would give up my child to the waiting couple who was willing to pay to adopt him. 

I could have been Jane Doe from Anywhere, U.S.A.  It didn't matter.  The counseling would have been the same.  Just as it still is to this very day for any vulnerable, pregnant mother trusting her counselor to help her make the right decision for herself and her baby.

But, I suppose, for some, such help was successful.  It did keep me in that mindset of believing I had to be happy about giving up my child.  Held me in place for many years as another good, cookie-cutter bi$#hmother, praised for knowing I could never be good enough for my child.  For giving him away as a "gift" to a more-deserving couple.

Their help made sure I never had a bad thing to say about adoption and could repeat the same script, that’s repeated even today, of just how happy I was whenever asked about my feelings, my experience with giving my first born child away.

It also made sure that I never once considered that my deep fear of losing my younger children in some way or another had anything to do with the loss of my first child.  Never imagined that my self-doubt of my worth as mother was tied in to being led to believe I wasn't a good enough mother for my oldest son. Never even considered my heart wrenching reaction to even the smallest form of loss was a direct result of suffering the loss of my own child.

I suffered with severe depression every year.  It always set in on Christmas night and would last well into the new year.  But I had been helped so well that I never realized the trigger was my son's birthday - December 27th - that tossed me in to such dark, almost unbearable pain, year after year.

And fifteen years later, that help, that counseling, kept me from even admitting to anyone - not even my husband or closest friends - that I was suffering and struggling as the denial began to wear off and all the pain and loss was threatening to come swarming in.  I didn't admit it, didn't even want to acknowledge it, because in my mind, it was a sign that there was something wrong with me because I was no longer happy about giving up my child.

And that wasn't right.  That wasn't how it was supposed to be.  I had been counseled to believe different.  And I DID believe it.  To the point where, for five years, even with internet access and Google as my best friend, I never even thought to go online and search for anybody else who might be feeling like I was feeling.

Because, I didn't believe they were out there.  I was counseled that mothers who gave up their babies, even years down the road, were happy with their experience and never regretted it.  And so there had to have been something wrong with me when, fifteen years later, I was hurting worse than I ever had, unable anymore to feel anything but heart-wrenching grief and shame that I had actually given my son away.

I went through reunion with my son in that state of mind.  In that isolation of refusing to share my struggles, my pain, with anyone.

And that is when I plummented to the worst place I have ever been in my life.  It was the first, and only time, I ever considered what it would be like to just go, just end my life and be free of all the pain, the heartache.  There were days I cried from morning to night.  Times when I struggled to even get out of bed, left my husband and children without a wife or mother because I couldn't face the day living with the pain.

If I had never stumbled across the Bi*$*mom group on CafeMom while looking for ideas for my daughter's birthday party, I may have never known what it was like to recover from that dark place in my life.

It was my first light in the dark tunnel I was traveling in.  My first step into healing from all the pain and suffering I had hidden away for so long.

And that is when I sought help for the second time.

I was so very lucky when I did.  My therapist was one who specialized in depression and trauma.  She had no pre-set judgments on adoption or on how mothers who had lost their children were expected to feel, to act, to show themselves to the outside world.

So I never got the disgusting practice of being reminded of why I gave up my son.  I was never encouraged to find a way to be happy with what happened, to find a way to somehow see that it was all for the best.

Instead I was treated and helped for the depression and trauma I was suffering from because of adoption.

And it was all about me.  It was my situation that mattered.  There was nothing for my therapist to gain from, so I was helped just as I should have been helped all those years ago . . . without bias and with a true concern on empowering me to find the strength I had inside of me so that I could see, finally, that I was good.  I was worthy.  And I was never deserving of what happened to me all those years ago when I was young and trusting of those who claimed to care and offered their "supposed" help.

She also helped me see that, regardless of what others suggest, it is actually very healthy to find support and understanding with those who share similar experiences.  That the myth of "choosing" not to dwell on what has hurt you and to just be "happy" is actually very damaging.  And that acknowledging my pain, my experience, talking about it and using it as reason to try and make a change, is actually a very important factor in healing from the emotional trauma caused all those years ago when I gave up my oldest son.

What happened to me, to my son, was wrong and I have EVERY right to stand up and speak out against it.  To fight for change so others might be spared the same pain.  I deserved better, my son deserved better, and I refuse to ever go back to that place in my life where I believed otherwise.

And yet, when someone suggests I "seek help" that is exactly where they want me to be.  They want me to seek the kind of help that would take me back to that unhealthy woman I was for so long, through the years of my denial and being the "happy" bi*#*mother I was expected to be, to the silent suffering I endured, believing I was wrong for my feelings, my pain.

That kind of help is there and easy to find.  With adoption agencies now offering post-adoption counseling to try and keep mothers in their destructive belief of having to be happy about giving up their children. And so many therapists blindly accepting adoption for what society perceives it as instead of taking the initiative to learn for themselves about the coercion and manipulation that exists, it's not hard to get the kind of help most would prefer I have.

Because that kind of help is the kind that helps them feel better.  Takes away that uncomfortable feeling they get when I speak out about pain and loss.  About the trauma of losing my child.  About the coercion and manipulation that exists in the counseling given to vulnerable, desperate mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy.

And yet, what I say, would make sense, wouldn't be so threatening, if adoption wasn't a part of the equation.  As I've said many times in the past, what is logical doesn't exist when it comes to the world of adoption.

Because logic is knowing how ridiculous and heart breaking it is for any mother to even suggest she is happy she gave away her own child, her own flesh and blood.  Logic is fighting for the protection of a mother and her unborn child, understanding the damage caused by separating such a strong, natural bond.

But in adoption, that logic is mocked, criticized and tossed aside as nonsense. 

In adoption, mothers are expected to be happy that they gave away their children.  And their children grateful they were given away to strangers.

In adoption, denial is considered healthy while actually feeling and acknowledging pain and loss is viewed as reason for someone to get professional help.

In adoption, those who encourage taking a newborn baby from his or her mother are held as respectful while those who fight to support mothers and their babies are viewed as the troubled ones.

And in adoption, there is nothing wrong with encouraging someone to go back to the painful, unhealthy life they struggled with as long as it guarantees society's views will not be challenged, or even worse . . . changed.

But change is what is needed.  The reality of the pain and trauma adoption can cause can't continue unnoticed.  And one way we can bring that change to reality is to realize how damaging it is to suggest someone hurting from the very real loss of adoption is somehow wrong or unhealthy because of their feelings.  To cease the expectation of happiness when one experiences the loss of a child, a mother . . . a family.

So many mothers and their children are living a life where they believe, to be good, to be healthy, they must be happy.  Must believe adoption was good for them, for their life.  It's long past time to accept and allow them to truly mourn, hurt and grieve the losses they suffered from the moment they were separated.

It's time to stop the advice of "seek help" and instead see and understand that the coercive, manipulative counseling of pregnant mothers, the expectation of them and their children to be happy with one of the most traumatizing losses a human being could ever suffer, creates a tragedy most will never understand.

A tragedy deserving of pain, of sadness, and of the need to find healing in seeking support, speaking out, and fighting to save others from such a dark, heart breaking reality.


  1. I've never understood how the adoption industry can offer counseling services hand in hand with adoption services. That is such a huge conflict of interest!

  2. If only others could see it with the same logic you do!

  3. Adoption is the right choice for some people. It isn't all evil.

    1. Yep, it's the "right choice" for those all deserving, entitled adopters, huh?

    2. Hmm . . . I have gone back through what I wrote and found nowhere that I stated adoption was all evil. Infact, the word "evil" doesn't even make a single appearance in the entire post.

      And while I do not believe all adoption is evil, I do believe there is evil in adoption. Just as I believe there is sadness and loss and, obviously, the need for some to discount and disregard such feelings.

  4. Well said, Cassie! It's interesting to me how much the repression/awakening process of original parents can mirror that of adoptees. So very frustrating that so many people refuse to acknowledge the pain and trauma that is a very really part of the adoption experience for so many of us.

    Did you say evil? I didn't hear you say evil. I didn't hear you say that adoption was the wrong choice for everyone in all situations. I heard you talk about your own experience, process, and pain, as I talk of mine.

    Thank you for doing so!

    1. I find that interesting too, the many similarities with adoptees and First Parents when it comes to our experience in, as you say, the repression/awakening process. I think it many ways it can find roots in that adoption counseling, adoptive parent counseling (when they are going through the beginning stages of the adoption process) and society's views overall all pretty much originate from the same source and so would, in many ways, create many similar reactions to those of us who have lived through the loss and grief of adoption.

  5. I actually agree with the statement Anonymous made, but as a response to this post it comes across as "I didn't hear a word you said." Sigh.

    1. I have visions of her putting her fingers in her ears and singing . . . "Nah, Nah, Nah" . . . through the entire post.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I've heard it before, too, Cassi. "Your daughter needs help" "you need help". What's really frustrating, as you alluded to, is they don't get that it is because of the adoption that we need help. They think there is some kind of mental instability that was already present. I hate that!
      We are all in counseling, and I love my therapist! She has told me many, many times that our reaction was normal. She has helped me and my family so much. Thanks again for such an insightful post.

    2. ***What's really frustrating, as you alluded to, is they don't get that it is because of the adoption that we need help.***

      Yes! I agree with that. And you sit there and wonder, how can they not see that. How can they not realize how damaging adoption can be to so many of us?

      I am so glad you have a good therapist who is helping you and your family. They are truly something to be thankful for.

  7. This hit me really hard today. Your truth mirrors mine. We were denied our rights to parent. We were given false information. After real counseling and speaking up we are shoved down and told to fall in line. Why is it so hard to hear from mothers that have lived adoption for decades? Why is it so hard for others to listen to us?

    1. ***Why is it so hard to hear from mothers that have lived adoption for decades? Why is it so hard for others to listen to us?***

      I ask myself those questions all the time. I think our voices make people uncomfortable. So many believe adoption is exactly what it is sold as . . . a loving, selfless choice. When that accepted truth is challenged by those who dare to speak out about the damage adoption can cause, about the terrible pain and loss so many of us suffer from, it threatens those who need to believe in only the good for their own peace of mind.

  8. A comment like Anon 10:22 pm distracts from the main point of this post. No one said all adoption is evil and unnecessary. But all adoption does involve tremendous loss. And for those of us who have suffered that loss and know its excruciating pain, we have been and still are prevented from acknowledging and voicing our experiences freely.

    For example, take that silly comment from Kelly Mahoney at The Lost Mothers blog. What she wrote is probably what passes for post-relinquishment counseling... "well, maybe you do feel you made the wrong choice surrendering your child but we all need to be mature about this and accept that everyone makes mistakes". Yeah, right, while the adoption workers are probably thinking... tee hee hee we got your baby and there's nothing you can do about it.

    I bet the American Psychological Association loves adoption. We keep the therapists in business.

    1. As odd as it might sound, that comment made me laugh. It was just almost so insulting with such a pretense of concern masking it.

      And, yeah, I definitely think what she said is directly related to post adoption counseling, especially since it's pushing for First Mothers to take responsibility for their choices without any suggestion that they very well could have been victims to the coercion and manipulation that exists in the world of adoption.

      The scariest thing about that comment was the fact that she claimed she was finishing up her education to become a Social Worker. I so hope that isn't true!

    2. I went and read her comment on Lost Mothers.

      If she has expressed her views to her daughter, I can see why the daughter is so angry at her.

      Her whole post rubbed me up the wrong way. First of all, whenever I hear anybody say things like "Perhaps, you can be comforted in the fact that you are making someone's dream of raising a child come true", I feel that the person saying that feels that the most important person in that sentence is the "someone", not the child. I didn't ask to make anyone's "dream come true", I was just a baby. In fact, I am slightly relieved that I am the 3rd child adopted in my family and didn't have that burden on me.

      Also, even though I realise that she is just saying in the last paragraph that her life is going well and I don't think she is actually saying it is going well because of the adoption, that is something that first moms and APs have to be careful not to portray. Even though we can be glad our first moms have done well in their lives, I don't think many adoptees really want to think that they are only doing well BECAUSE of their adoption. It can come across as sounding like we needed to be removed from our mothers lives for them to do well - a bit like throwing things overboard to save a sinking boat.

      This is where I think agency advertising is so misleading - how often do you read websites that actually give the impression that we adoptees are thrilled to be making other people's dreams come true, as if that is our purpose in life. We adoptees are so selfless aren't we lol.

    3. "... that we adoptees are thrilled to be making other people's dreams come true, as if that is our purpose in life."

      Actually, it is a very large burden. Especially when the adoptee ends up being very different from the a-family and is not what the doctor (or in this case the adoptive parents) ordered.

    4. I see it many times and it breaks my heart . . . a First Mom or Adoptee making it all about the adoptive parents. They gave them a gift, they made them happy, etc. . . etc . . . etc. So often you see where they will give up their own feelings so they can praise how worthy the adoptive parents are.

      Maybe I'm hurting, maybe I'm not so happy with my situation, but as long as the adoptive parents are happy, that makes it all okay.

  9. "I never once considered that my deep fear of losing my younger children in some way or another had anything to do with the loss of my first child. Never imagined that my self-doubt of my worth as mother was tied in to being led to believe I wasn't a good enough mother for my oldest son. Never even considered my heart wrenching reaction to even the smallest form of loss was a direct result of suffering the loss of my own child."

    I cried when I read this piece... I dont feel nearly as betrayed by my adoption experience, and I have a good relationship with my son and his whole family so I feel that helps me. I DO struggle with my younger daughter, I have nightmares about her being kidnapped. I have so much anxiety over even the slightest hint I might lose her. I am always second guessing my parenting skills.I also seem to overreact to every moment of grief in my life, especially deaths and loss of family. I feel like I was reading my own life in these lines... some of the rest is different, but no matter what the loss is always a part of us. I wish more people could understand that.

    1. I agree. No matter the differences in our experiences, our loss is there and always a part of us. I hope it helps to knows others have struggled with the same things and completely understand when you talk about your nightmares and self doubts.

  10. The tricky part is finding a therapist who is sensitive to adoption issues. I remember a mom sharing at an AAC conference what happened at a therapist's office. After this mom had poured out all her anguish about having to relinquish her child for adoption, the therapist said something like: "That's all very interesting, but now let's talk about what's REALLY going on with you." Argh!!!!

    1. There are so many terrible experiences with those who have found therapists completely clueless when it comes to the pain and grief adoption causes.

      My oldest son, in one of the darkest parts of his teenage life, was taken to a "Good-Christian" therapist who pretty much let him know that he should be grateful his mother adopted him and stop acting up or he'd go to hell for his sins. Uggg!

  11. Adoption Digger,

    When I went to therapist three of them all female which I thought might help them relate as a woman each one reacted totally different. First, one saw me first then my found son and I together. She really was clueless as far as adoption issues. Offered no real help so I stopped going why pay for nothing.
    The next was referred by a friend she listened to me tell her my story. I told her I was so
    happy to have my son in my life. I said I can be so content and happy to look over and see him sitting there. Her remark was he isn't your husband. I did not go back why bother.
    Then my third therapist I made sure she had been trained in EMDR which is used on Viet Nam vets with post traumatic stress. I thought I had at last found help after talking with her she said she wanted to start with my mom and my abandonment issues. I told
    her I was there for EMDR and would not come is I couldn't get help on the issues I felt were important.

    When it comes to issues of adoption I have not been able to get the help I know I need
    I can imagine adoptees face exactly same problem. Adoption is a win win according to everyone except the losers mother and child.

    1. I agree with you, Mother. One has to be very careful when selecting a counselor to deal with adoption issues. After all, wasn't it the social work/psychology/psychiatric community who said that mothers some 40 plus years ago were immoral and unfit to raise their own children just because they *gasp* had sex when they weren't married? And that their children would be so much better off being raised by strangers just because the strangers were married? If they had it so wrong back then why should anyone assume that they know any better now?

    2. I am so sorry you have had such a terrible time finding a qualified therapist to help you. It frustrated me that moms and adoptees alike seem to have to outright beg for someone to listen to them instead of brushing aside adoption as no big deal.

      I truly do feel as if I lucked out with my therapist. I wish there was some way to know which ones will truly be helpful and which ones to avoid like the plague before we ever had to put ourselves out there, seeking help.

    3. One option is to interview potential therapists and find out what their views on adoption are and how much experience they have with the issue before telling them how you feel about it. This way you can hopefully find someone who is more open-minded and doesn't just spout all of the stereotypical beliefs we hear every day.

  12. I always wonder why it is that nobody thinks that people who think it’s a LOVING thing to give your own child, your flesh and blood away and that one should be able to feel happy about it NEED HELP? Seems odd to me …kind of sociopathic… even…People, generally don’t go around giving their kids away….because, for one…it FEELS bad….it causes profound grief….if you are not a sociopath…you SHOULD FEEL IT. It should hurt, and you have every right to not only FEEL it but express it. And to let others know that the, “you’ll look back on this as the best thing you have ever done…” is for *MANY* a lie.

    I think on some level all of who have had to deal with the consequences of adoption, of secrets, lies and myths about children being resilient and interchangeable need a bit of help…

    1. You would think, wouldn't you, that it would be more concerning for a mother and/or child to have no grief or issues from suffering such a heart-breaking separation.

      It isf so far ingrained in so many minds that adoption is nothing but good that so many tend to lose sight of just how natural it is for mothers and children to suffer when separated from one another.

  13. Cassi, thank you for your post. I always appreciate your honesty and straightforwardness.

    I think that adoptive parents need counseling as well. There is so much fluff in adoption - especially in the pre-adoption counseling sessions - that adoptive parents don't always get a "real" version of it. The stories that have shaped my parenting the most are the ones that are real and honest. Yes, I like to hear the happy moments because we all need some happiness in our lives, but I think adoptive parents are duped as well when they only get to see the "happy side" of adoption. I would like to go to an adoptive parents seminar where there are adoptees and mothers who can share the real pain associated with adoption. No, I don't want to be in despair, but we have to open our eyes and see what's really happening.

  14. I nannied for an adopted girl of two dads and we are all still close. I'm glad I came across this forum for my own edification. I'm also pretty sure that I would make a much better counselor than what I've heard is out there. It takes a person who has dug deep in her own life to help others and one who is empathetic before judgmental. Those counselors sounds like they are on autopilot and not really paying attention.

    I also always imagined that giving a child up would be something that no one could get over, but I guess that's my empathy, feeling it all out. Cassi, this is the first time I've read an account like this and it was painful to read, but again, I'm learning. It's important that you express this, not only for your own healing and others, but for people like me who really do care and who work with children and families to be able to understand the daily, hourly, yearly struggles with adoption. Thanks again.

  15. I realize that I am a little to comment on this post, but I just have to.

    Thank you for sharing your deep and most valuable emotions with us in the blogging, and adoption community.

    I myself am an adoptee, and will be the first to admit that my life has not been full of sunshine and rainbows, but dark and painful emotions as a result of my parent's giving me up for adoption.

    I always enjoy reading your work, and take great value in your ability to share your thoughts with the adoption world .

    Thank you for your words and willingness to shed some light on situations that others are too afraid to talk about.

    1. Of course I realize this after publishing the comment,

      I am a little late** to comment on this post...

  16. PowerDad - I refuse to allow your cruelty and ignorance to have any kind of voice on my blog. I have deleted your comment and will continue to delete any comments you leave here.

    Moonstar - I am so sorry. I was unable to keep your great response to PowerDad once I deleted his ridiculous comment.

  17. I've tried to get help for the trauma of adoption. Unfortunately, like the people you are referring to in your post.... the majority of the therapists have no clue about adoption loss trauma.

    Also, just wanted to share, I'm working on the Open Adoption Legal Project for those who were promised an open adoption that closed or became restricted to hold adoption agencies and lawyers legally accountable. Feel free to share! This is particular to open adoption, any year, in the U.S.

  18. Thank you, Cassi, for writing this post. As an adult adoptee who is just realizing how much my struggles in life have been related to my adoption it strikes me how much of what birthmothers write resonates with me. I am just now beginning to feel the terrible, terrible grief of losing not only my birthmother but also my birth father. Adoption was supposed to be so "happy" for the child who was adopted and the child should feel so "lucky" and "grateful". I would have been fine with my birthparents, but adults I had no control over made decisions and kept secrets that altered my destiny...and that really hurts. And I hurt so much for my birthmother and at the same time that pain is so raw that I have not even been able to fully connect to 46. Only some people get this whole thing, and it is most often only the adopted people and birthmothers. It all does look so sunshiny to the "biological" people of the world. They have something that most of us only dare to dream of and they don't even know what a gift it is. Praying for everyone reading this that we all find healing and understanding.

  19. thanks for your honest post . . .. as someone who never got any pre or post-adoption counseling, i am still amazed at how deep and entrenched denial can be. I finally broke through my denial when my adopted daughter's first mother walked away from her and never looked back (unexpectedly). It finally hit me that mine did the same thing! It only took 40 years to realize it.

  20. Thank you, Cassi, for sharing. As I was reading this, I thought you were an adult adoptee like myself. We both know the extent that closeted emotions can strangle us. It seems like everyone involved with adoption has to abide by the gag rule, and women who lose their babies are silenced the most. I'm glad that you are speaking out, and SO eloquently, honestly, and nonjudgementally. Although I appeared happier and probably was better liked when I was "blissfully" ignorant and in denial about adoption, I can't go back, and don't want to. I'm so glad to see that other people touched by adoption (including you and me) can speak out more honestly about our experiences (and be supported when we do.

    Although it can't undo the past, I'm glad that you got more of the help that fits you. I feel like adoption agencies are the last places we should go to discuss about adoption openly. They have their agenda and it doesn't seem to be supportive towards people's lives. I'm supported by knowing that many other adoptees feel the same way as I do. I've been fortunate to have seen 3 therapists, all who were sensitive to issues surrounding adoption, but most importantly, they didn't teach me their perspective, they let me accept and develop my own. For anyone who's interested, you might want to look up Family Connections in the Cambridge/Boston area. Joyce Pavao has referred me to people in California and NYC, and is well-connected. She might know of people in your neighborhood. It may have helped me too that I went to school with her daughter, but I have also been clear about what type of person I think I would be comfortable speaking with. I think it would benefit my a-mom (and me) if my a-mom would start confiding with other people about adoption and about me.

    All in all, I can't say that I love this adoption thing either, but having truly supportive people who let me feel the way I feel helps. Those who advise me on how to feel, well, for the most part, I don't have space for them anymore. It's taken me a long time for permit myself to have my own feelings and perspective and I don't want to go back.

  21. Well, I would like to tell that adoption is an easy process. The only process that should be done is it should be done in sequence and legally.
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