6.30.2012

# 40: DOES ADOPTION RUN IN FAMILIES?


PAGE # 40
Friday
12/16/11
Approximately 11:10 am


If Kendra's mother felt any pain about losing her only granddaughter, she did not show it.  At least not in front of Tom and I.  When Kendra stopped crying that morning in the hospital, I looked for even the slightest trace of ambivalence on Anna--if not something as dramatic as a few tears, then maybe downcast eyes, a frown, a nervous twitch, slouched posture--anything that might betray her ostensible support of the adoption plan.  I found nothing.


And if Anna's physical being demonstrated no visible grief, but she had remained quiet for the duration of her visit there, I might have speculated that her silence functioned as a dam: That if she tried to speak, a flood of misery might spring forth, unstoppable in its force.


But Anna would speak--at length and with optimism.  If the scene had been scripted for a Broadway play, one could easily imagine a spotlight on Kendra as she sobbed--and that same spotlight shift onto Anna--just as Kendra wiped a final tear with the palm of her hand.


I think that if I had been a member of an audience, watching the dialogue unfold on a stage, instead of a prospective adoptive parent in a hospital room, I might have been more apt to notice a startling clue as to why Kendra was choosing relinquishment for her child.  But this was no such performance.  I was too immersed in the drama, too busy looking for answers behind Kendra's plan, to notice the obvious.  I listened to Anna with both relief (that Kendra had stopped crying) and with real interest (Anna would share personal information that was indeed fascinating).  My brain, on the other hand, was not paying attention.  


And so, I would be overtaken by the content of Anna's story.  I would fail to notice the underlying dynamic that was unveiled before my eyes:  that adoption runs in families, at least in this particular family, and probably, I suspect now, that this familial history was the strongest force driving the adoption plan.  As a mental health professional, I am quite aware that trauma gets transmitted through subsequent generations--physical abuse, incest, and the like--but I had never considered the possibility that adoption gets reenacted in one's offspring.  I have not checked any official data on this, but from the personal case stories I've now read, it seems to be a reasonable hypothesis.


For example, a grown adoptee might relinquish her first born in an unconscious attempt to identify with her own birth mother.  Or, a grown adoptee might end up adopting children herself as a means to create a family--even if she has no infertility issues.  I think there are various configurations of how adoption, as a family dynamic, gets passed down to one's descendants, and for sure, I have seen evidence of this phenomenon in many of the adoption blogs I now frequent.


But!  I am not trying to convince the reader of some abstract theory--I want only to convey the interesting adoption facts surrounding this adoption story; that is, those family stories that happened way before Baby Lily was even conceived:


1)  Kendra's mother, Anna, was adopted as an infant.  And it would be this story--Anna's adoption story--that Anna would speak about at length once Kendra stopped crying.  What is interesting to note, is that Anna did not tell her story in any chronological order; indeed, she did not begin with the reasons why she was put up for adoption.  Instead, she began with the story of her reunification with her birth family, and worked backwards from there.


2)  I would also come to learn that Kendra's parents were divorced (though this was not readily apparent as they interacted in a wholly amicable and mutually supportive manner).  Moreover, Kendra's stepmother--Mike's second wife to whom he is still married--is a birth mother to a once lost (and not yet found) baby girl. 


I had never before been surrounded by so many adoption stories in one room.  I guess there's the chance that I'm over-analyzing the family dynamics and throwing too much meaning at it all.  But I tend to think otherwise.  


Because I have no faith in a higher being and no affiliation with any religious institution--perhaps because I cannot throw a blanket of divine reason over all the obfuscation--maybe my search for meaning tends to hone in on the particulars of my observations.  I look for patterns in behavior and I see that humanity, in general, is confined to a process of repetition.  I believe there is a human tendency to repeat the things that cause us the most pain.  And I think this occurs at every level of existence:  individual, family, cultural, the world at large.  


In the following posts, I will share those moments, those revelations about Kendra's family history.  I have now warned the reader of my bias, one that I did not myself consider at the time.  It's a bias formed in hindsight, after much reflection on the stories shared that day.  


This story is not just about where Baby Lily is now.  This story begs to understand why Baby Lily got lost in the first place.  The answer is probably found in a constellation of factors, not some singular first cause, but I do think the framework for that constellation got formed a long time ago.  Long before Baby Lily constituted a crisis pregnancy for Kendra.  


I think adoption runs in families.  It's an intuitive guess.  But I'd bet good money on it.


***

After writing this post, I did a Google search using my title, "Does Adoption Run in Families?"  I found the following:



15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that sometimes dysfunction is generational. In my family, there is a lot of poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, and physical and sexual abuse. This is probably a combination of genetics and environment. So it is no surprise that I have 3 cousins that were taken by the state, 3 cousins being raised by their grandparents, 2 nieces being raised by a great aunt. And I am raising the son of my cousin, who is my sister by adoption (we were both adopted by our paternal grandmother) in our family, it is normal to abandon your children, or use drugs, or date a child molester. Or do all 3 of those things, like my mother. I'm hoping to break the cycle with my kids.

Jennifer said...

Anon...
High five to breaking the cycle of abuse :)

I never got to say goodbye said...

I found out 4 years after reunion from my birthmothers step mother that my birthmother was in fact adopted as an infant- her adoptive mother died and she was raised by a step mother- ( tho she never knew this until I told her last year)... Her step mother gave me her original birth certificate and i have since found her birth family- her birthmother( my birthgrandmother) placed 9 children for adoption and herself was adopted as well- there is speculation that my birthgramothers's mother- was adopted as well.

My birthmother did not know she was adopted when she put two kids up for adoption....

I can totally identify with your theory and I think my story also illustrates this point.

I never got to say goodbye said...

My birthmother placed two children and was adopted at birth - she did not know she was adopted until she was 53 and I told her-( I found out from her step mother and since found her birthfamily)- her birthmother my birth grandmother placed 9 children for adoption- and raised 4 children- she herself was adopted. There is speculation that her mother- my birth great grandmother was adopted as well.

I have my own theories on this- ... but you are on the right track absolutely...

Jennifer said...

I never got to say goodbye...

Wow...that is an amazing story. Especially that you discovered that your BM was also adopted--and she didn't even know it.

I know also that my best friend, who is adopted, her BM was also placed for adoption as an infant.

I wonder if Amanda over at Declassified Adoptee knows of any data on this?

Myst said...

Hi Jennifer,

Yes, I think it can run in families too. After I gave birth to Amber and was trying to keep her, I discovered a family secret that an Aunt had placed a baby for adoption... she was very much of the generation where you didn't speak of it and tried to make me hide the secret of my daughter to which I replied no way. It was very sad. She is dead now and never reunited with her son, my cousin.

My daughter's birth father, the guy who raped me, is an adoptee... yes, the adoption curse runs in families. I have seen much evidence as well that would support this theory.

It is sad Kendra did not have support from her family - how could her mother be so emotionless while her daughter was in such obvious pain? This story is so tragic with many tragic pieces that lead to one huge tragic event.

Jennifer said...

Myst,

I also discovered that my Great Aunt took care of a baby for sometime and then lost her/him. I need to get more info from extended cousins, as she is deceased. This bit of family history--I did not know about until Baby Lily.

Samantha P said...

When I was pregnant as a teen, my adoptive mother refused to allow me to give the baby to my aunt and uncle who could not have children and who were looking to adopt. Why? Because it would have been too weird according to my mother!

jenrcg said...

When I first heard about the phenomenon of adoptees relinquishing their own children, I found it shocking and very confusing, especially as in some cases it seemed that the adoptee in question was very much ‘awake’ and aware of the pain adoption had caused them. At first, it’s hard to comprehend how someone who has lived that pain could be complicit in putting their own child through the same trauma.

But then I started wondering, if many adoptees have spent their whole childhood with a million questions buzzing around their head driving them crazy (Did she love me? Did she want me? How could she give me up? Did she forget me or does she remember? Does she think of me often?) then for those who are not in reunion and don’t have answers to those questions (and maybe even for those who do), perhaps in a perverse kind of way relinquishment is an unconscious attempt to finally get real answers to those questions – almost to BECOME their mother and really know something of how she felt?

It’s just a thought, I’m not an adoptee or first mother so I don’t really know, but it would be interesting to know if the degree to which an adoptee has found answers to these questions before becoming pregnant, has any effect on the likelihood of her choosing adoption for her own child.

There are so many tragic consequences of adoption, but to me this idea, that it may even have the power to start a ‘chain reaction’ of history repeating itself down through the generations, is almost unbearably poignant and sad. In some stories I’ve read it almost seems as if the lack of biological mothering has shattered the adoptee’s confidence in her own ability to be a biological mother, which is so sad as I believe almost every woman has the maternal instincts within her to be a good mother with a bit of support.

Jennifer said...

jenrcg...


"it would be interesting to know if the degree to which an adoptee has found answers to these questions before becoming pregnant, has any effect on the likelihood of her choosing adoption for her own child."

That is a fascinating question. If true, one would suspect reunion to decrease chances of relinquishment in future descendants.

In Kendra's case, however, her own mother was reunited with her birth mother. In some ways, I feel like Kendra wanted to become this long sought after woman (she seemed to identify with each of her parent's closest relationships--her mother's bio mom and her father's new wife who was a first mother)--I know she hopes/plans to reunite with Lily someday.

Thanks for reading,
Jennifer :)

jenrcg said...

Jennifer

I was wondering the same thing about reunion, and also wondered whether the online adoption community might have a similar effect, as even if an adoptee can’t get specific answers about their own adoption, maybe adoption blogs can help to provide a partial answer, since it’s pretty clear that close to 100% of first mothers online loved their babies just as much as any other mother does, were devastated by separation, and never forgot or got over it.

Even if there’s some truth to my theory, I’m sure it’s just one of many contributory factors, and the suggestions by other commenters must be part of the answer too. But if even just one adoptee has been driven to relinquish their child in a desperate attempt to find answers to their own questions, then I think that says so much about the tragedy of adoption, and the intensity of the need for answers.

And as for poor Kendra, her whole situation seems so messed up, it must have been difficult for you to make any sense of it at all, especially at the time. But the burning question on everyone’s lips is: what was it about you that made you able to see what was going on in front of your eyes, and see it for what it was, when so many other PAPs can’t or won’t in similar situations?

Jennifer said...

jenrcg,

I'm not sure that I saw everything for what it was at the time. Yes, I definitely don't fit the typical profile of a PAP--that is clear to me especially bc PAPs & APs don't seem to read my blog, or if they do, they don't comment so I don't know they've been here.

The people who read my blog are either personal friends/family, and first mothers and grown adoptees.

I have yet to encounter another blogger who occupies the same place I do--and I can't share all the details of that yet--bc I have yet to get to that point in my story!

I am still figuring things out. Everything here is from my point of view, so I can't know anything for sure--at least pertaining to the emotions of everyone else. I have an interpretation of why things happened as they did--but, unfortunately--it's merely that--an interpretation. I doubt I'll ever know for sure. Who knows if anyone in this story knows the real truth behind his/her actions?

We had to make some difficult decisions in the end, as my readers will come to see. It felt like a moral test without knowing the full truth and with so much at stake.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to reflect and comment as well,
Jennifer

Anonymous said...

I was a PAP. Well, in the wanting to adopt, saving money, thinking stages. I read any article about adoption, was on adoption.com every day. Then something prompted me to read the adoptee forums, then the birthmother forums. Hmmm... All wasn't rainbows and unicorns. Then I read blogs. This one, lastmom, I was a foster kid, adoptiontruth, living in the shadows. They had something different to say. And I listened. I decided to adopt an older child from foster care. Took the classes, prepared for a homestudy, and ended up taking in my sister and her 8 year old son. I'm glad I didn't go through with the original plan to adopt an infant. My sister and nephew need me, and I'm glad I can be there for them. Someday, when things settle down, there will be another child in my future, one who needs a family, not one who already has one.

Jennifer said...

Anon,

Yes--that's so the truth. Infant adoption is most likely about taking a baby away from a pre-existing family. Even international adoption is risky with all the child trafficking.

I am glad to hear you are able to help your own family. That is wonderful.

Best,
Jennifer :)

Kellie said...

Hi Jennifer,
I've been reading your blog from the beginning, and I find you a fantastic writer and story teller! I know you've been to my blog (all in the family adoption). So, you may remember the story. I have had this same suspicion of adoption running in families. It doesn't run in my family but my husbands. Surprise, surprise. (his brother adopted our granddaughter). My husbands mother is an adoptee, and his sister adopted a little boy from Russia a few years ago. My mother-in-law was adopted by a relative. After everything went down, my husband and I both contributed her eagerness for the adoption to go through to her own personal history.