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Thoughts on adoption [Dec. 10th, 2003|11:59 am]
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

Having watched Kat and Eric go through the adoption procedure, and having heard from other people dragging themselves through the same thing, is painfully frustrating and it's sometimes hard to remember that there are good reasons for all this. But then I remember Gwen.

I went to highschool with Gwen. She was a year behind me in school, and good friends with friends of mine, so I knew her story even though the two of us were never particularly close. Gwen was adopted, she and her younger brother both. Adopted as babies, raised by the only parents they ever knew.

Never a family. Gwen's mother (let's call her Mrs. Smith) never let her forget that the only reason she was in the household was because her disappointing husband was firing blanks. Upon discovering that she could never birth her own children, Mrs. Smith accepted her husband's peace offering of adoption, and they brought Gwen home. Mrs. Smith's thirst to be a mother was not slaked by Gwen, so two years later they adopted her brother, Joey.

To her credit, Mrs. Smith gave up on the experiment with only two adoptees and did not afflict herself on any other poor children. Because there was never a moment when she let Gwen and Joey forget that to her they represented nothing but consummate failure. They were a disappointment at every turn, devouring resources that should have been used by her own children.

Mrs. Smith treated them as intruders on her life, and resented every moment spent on homework, every dime spent on clothing. Mrs. Smith never attended a single extra-curricular event, never brought cupcakes for birthdays, never served as a room mother or drove for field trips or involved herself in any way with the children's lives. By the time she was in highschool, Gwen was expected to work and pay for her own clothes.

Gwen was beautiful. Tall and willowy, dark hair in a bob, deep blue eyes. She blossomed in her sophomore year, got involved with the drama club, starred in a play. During all this, her homelife grew more hellish.

Mrs. Smith could not bear the sight of Gwen. She would not let her wear makeup, forced her to wear sweatshirts and baggy pants to school. Gwen's birth mother had been a slut, to have given birth to a bastard. Gwen was doomed to follow in her footsteps. It was in her blood, and only Mrs. Smith's vigilance would prevent it.

Halfway through her junior year, Gwen was late getting home from rehearsal. It had run long, and she had to ride in one of the insane car pools we jammed together from the few kids who owned cars (seven of us in a VW bug was common). Gwen begged to be taken home first, and even though it meant doubling back, Mark agreed to do it. When we arrived at her house, Mrs. Smith was waiting in the yard. Gwen climbed out of the car and was physically dragged into the house by her screaming mother.

She was about half an hour late.

She never came back to school. Besides breaking the curfew, she had arrived sitting on a boy's lap (nevermind that we were two-deep with someone lying over the top of the stack in the back seat). Mrs. Smith took her straight to the downtown Catholic boarding school and enrolled her.

Gwen ran away, and was returned, attempted suicide twice, was institutionalized, was sent back to the school, and then finally disappeared for good in the company of a boy she'd met on a field trip. I never heard anything about her again.

And the saddest part of all was that she thought that this was the way all adopted children were treated. She didn't think anyone ever really loved or cared for adopted children. Gwen and Joey had a place to live, and food on the table. For this, they were supposed to be continually grateful - I remember Gwen talking about how fortunate she was not to be in an orphanage. I knew other adopted children who were adored, and told her so. She didn't believe me. I don't think she could let herself believe. I think she was too scared to face up to how bad her life really was.

People like Mrs. Smith are the reason why adoption needs to be such a difficult process. No one ever considered whether she could accept an adopted child, no one was there to intervene. I'm sure her life was a hell of disappointment, and it made her a monster.

[User Picture]From: the_siobhan
2003-12-10 09:17 am (UTC)
Ugh. I'm glad I read this aftre finding out about my daughter's adoptive parents.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-12-10 09:26 am (UTC)
Gwen would be about 44 now. She is a case in point of why it's a different procedure these days.
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[User Picture]From: the_siobhan
2003-12-10 09:37 am (UTC)
Oh, I still would have been a neurotic mess. (Some things are impervious to logic.)

When my daughter would have been about 6, there was a story in the news about a guy nailed for child abuse leading to death. He was the lawyer in a series of private adoptions, in a couple of cases where the adoption fell through he just kept the kids.

I knew she was safe, but I had nightmares all the same.
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[User Picture]From: albumlady
2003-12-10 09:21 am (UTC)
Well said! Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: zigurat
2003-12-10 09:51 am (UTC)
Mm hm. Problem is, they screen out a lot of good people (things like finances) and screen in some fairly bad people (people are good liars). I know.

*thinking of my two adopted*
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[User Picture]From: demetria23
2003-12-10 09:59 am (UTC)
I used to work for an open adoption agency. It was fairly small, and it was very difficult to get a baby from there. But at least there were no horror stories like this one... the adoptive parents seemed lovely.
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[User Picture]From: thewhitedragon
2003-12-10 10:08 am (UTC)
Sadly, this can't be construed as an isolated incident. It doesn't only happen to adopted kids either. There are people who just shouldn't be parents...to anyone.

Though I do not want a child, and nor does my girlfriend, I'm happy for people who want them, get them (especially by adoption) and become good parents. The real problem is that so many people have children for the wrong reasons. Marital problems. Threat of divorce. Wanting someone who will love said parent "unconditionally". Lack of self- and birth-control. Desire to make someone else happy. Feeling that they want to raise a child to "show their own parents up" by giving them everything the never had. Something to "make the other person stay". The list of bad reasons keeps going.

Once the child is born, the stresses involved often make the best parents neglectful or abusive. Once you have a child, you can't just undo it -- people often forget that. People think that they can solve their issues by either giving birth or adopting. The only person who can solve your problems is yourself.

Many people have said that I would make a great father and my girlfriend a great mother. How do they know? People change once they have a child, there is no way around it. These same people, who most often have children, tell me that the things I don't like about the lil' tykes (i.e., diapers, screaming, stress, attitude, lack of sleep) won't be an issue when I have my own. Says who? I think we know each other better than someone else looking in. Until we feel ready to have a child, these people continuously tweak me and I have been known to tell them about a certain rope that they can piss up.

The thing is that it's not the parent who suffers because of these assumptions. It's the child. They are the ones who bear the scars that you can't see. Most of the time, the children of these parents become parents themselves and the cycle continues.
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[User Picture]From: law_witch
2003-12-10 10:17 am (UTC)
Mrs. Smith would have been a horrid mother even if she'd had her own kids. What a miserable human being!

Let's hope that somewhere along the line Gwen and Joey found a good support group, therapists and the love they so richly deserved.

And for all the gripping I do about my kid, I'd kill for her, she's my life in many ways.
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[User Picture]From: shadesong
2003-12-10 11:50 am (UTC)
My experience isn't as harsh as Gwen's - but I, too, grew up with the constant reminders that I wasn't family. Mine was compounded by the fact that my sister - their natural child (their phrasing) - was born 4 years later.

I don't blame my sister - it was the fault of her position in the family, not the fault of her PERSONALLY - but when she was born, my mother grew exhausted of taking care of two children at once. So she sent me to a "family friend"'s house every day after preschool.

Said "friend" molested me until I was 11 and discovered that that was not the normal way children are raised.

And I know about the "You're going to end up like your real mother!", my real mother having been an unwed 16-year-old high school dropout. And whehen I tried repeatedly to kill myself, I was sent to a mental ward, then a wilderness survival camp, then a group home until I was 18.

Hm. Well. Maybe my experience isn't that different; I just never looked at it as an adoptee thing.

And also, less severe, but it's affected my self-esteem all my life - it was constantly publicly declared that my sister was "the pretty one." When people asked what about me, it was dismissively said that I was "the smart one", but my mother put more stock in beauty than in brains.

Me? I was an unwed young mother, high-school dropout... who kept her baby, and shows that baby every day how much she loves her, how important she is, and tells her first that she is a Good Person and very intelligent, and also that she is beautiful. But Elayna knows that being a Good Person is the most important thing.

I don't think anyone ever taught my mother that.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-12-10 11:59 am (UTC)
You are doing a good thing: breaking the cycle. It's all we the damaged can do.
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[User Picture]From: shadesong
2003-12-10 12:01 pm (UTC)
Very true... and I'm doing me best to be the kind of mother my wonderful kid deserves.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-12-10 12:27 pm (UTC)
It's a cautionary tale. When you get frustrated by the mound of paperwork, maybe it will help to remember why you face it.

Good luck.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-12-10 01:28 pm (UTC)

Re: yeah

That's what usually happens. I'm sure that Mrs. Smith sleeps at night because she thinks Gwen was just doomed to be like that and there was nothing she could have done.

Makes me wanna cry....
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[User Picture]From: lothie
2003-12-10 03:21 pm (UTC)
Dear god.
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[User Picture]From: salix_03
2003-12-10 08:56 pm (UTC)
'Mrs Smith' is a despicable human being.

I have a kid, unplanned of course ;) I didnt want kids and didnt ever plan on having one. That said, now that i have a son i am being the best parent i humanly can be coz there is no way in all 9 hells that im gonna screw him up. Im 80% sure im not having anymore kids and i couldnt adopt one (though if another child dropped in my lap, like all these cats seem to have done, i would be as loving towards the adopted child and my geneticly derived one) because im just not suited to mothering. i do the very best i can with my son but i can see how i could do so much better if only i werent screwey myself. sorry if im not very coherent today, lack of sleep!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-12-11 03:58 am (UTC)
As long as you're aware of needing to do your best, your son is a lucky boy.
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[User Picture]From: shiftercat
2003-12-10 09:19 pm (UTC)
Good gods.

Obviously "Mrs. Smith" is a horrible, petty, twisted-around excuse for a human being, but I can't help thinking that this anecdote also presents an example of why the "motherhood as the only true fulfillment for women" social myth should be dismantled A.S.A.P.

What about Mr. Smith, though? Did he ever stick up for the kids, or was he one of these burned-out husks of a father?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-12-11 03:59 am (UTC)
I dont think he ever wanted kids at all, and did the adoption thing to appease her. A bad, bad situation all around.
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[User Picture]From: queenjade
2003-12-12 11:03 am (UTC)
I lived that life. I was adopted and never wanted. Same story really. Our neighbors spraypainted "HELLHOUSE" on the side of our garage. Nuff said.

Even more importantly...
www.bastards.org -Adoption is a human rights issue for many people. It's a necessary part of society, but it should be done without the falsification of government records.
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[User Picture]From: alexandralynch
2003-12-17 09:24 pm (UTC)
That is a profoundly sad story. I have given birth three times; twice to my own sons, and once to one who, though biologically mine and my husband's, is our nephew, and his parents are as close as siblings to me. There appears to be a myth in the common way of thinking that marriage will guarantee enough money for all your needs, that all children conceived within a marriage can be wanted and that there will be space in the house as well as in the heart, for another child. This is not the case. It was an open adoption...hard to get more open, as we found each other, she (a lawyer) did the paperwork, and she caught her son when he slid from my body. And in a lovely twist of fate, he looks like her and her husband, not at all like his genetic sibs or parents. We stay in contact, and our sons call J. their cousin, and calls me and my husband Aunt and Uncle. If he ever wants to know, his mother and I have agreed to tell him the truth. Perhaps this will mean that he won't find any shame in growing beneath my ribs instead of his mother's.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-12-18 03:41 am (UTC)
This is a wonderful story, and you are a good and kind person to be so generous. I had wished that I had time in my life to serve as a surrogate parent to Kat and Eric's child (they can conceive, but Kat has a blood condition that prevents successful implantation), but with school and work, it just wasn't going to happen. Your nephew is a lucky boy.
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