Updated: Dec 27, 2019
The aftermath of what came to pass after the adoption of my daughter was far less dramatic than the story leading up to it. Three months after she went home my daughters adoption to her new parents was finalized. The breaking of promises began almost immediately, starting with not being told about or asked to come to her adoption finalization hearing. I should have known then that everything I was told was a lie, but it was too late and I had no choice but to trust and attempt to keep communication with these people to the best of my ability.
I began a barrage of emails to the family (I wasn't given any contact information except an email, which should have been a red flag for me), attempting to keep contact as regular as possible. They were slow in responding, often taking several months to get back to me. Looking back on it now, as a parent of small children, I realize they may have been extremely, overwhelmingly busy. None the less, making time to write a grieving girl who gave you the greatest gift you have ever received, outside of salvation, should have been a priority. When the emails slowed to a trickle and then seemingly ceased altogether I began contacting the social workers at the agency, trying to get some answers and some support. They, after all, were the ones who had emphasized how important our adoption contract was, and they had at least some feign of power in the situation. The family did start contacting me again, I suppose after getting a call from the agency about my concerns. Knowing now what I know, I imagine that the agency called and warned the family that it would be best to at least pretend to have an interest in keeping in touch with me in these early years, if for no other reason at least to assure that I wouldn't do anything "crazy" like go and kidnap my child.
I know that idea of a birth parent coming back after the fact and "kidnapping" the child is a very real fear for many adoptive parents and social workers. I was aware of that, even as a young girl, and I wanted to make sure these people understood, I had no intention of being that crazy person. I had given them this child because I had made the promise that I would give her to them. I wasn't going to go and take that away from them, legally or illegally.
All that said, I wanted what we had agreed upon, which wasn't asking so much. Communication. Not a lot. Photos. Not a lot. At that time Facebook had been around about a year and I tried to friend them on Facebook thinking this would be the easiest route to receiving updates and photos. They ignored the request. I sent another. Ignored again. Finally the social worker contacted me and told me I was being inappropriate. ....Really? I am being inappropriate asking for what was promised. I am being inappropriate insisting upon what I was told would happen in order for me to feel comfortable. I was a wreck.
In those days I was emotional always, I couldn't help myself. I let loose at my dad about everything happening. He contacted the agency and laid into them. One thing I will always say about my dad, he is the guy you go to when you need something done. He gets it done. He is aggressive when necessary, and he is not afraid to be so. He was raised in a different culture, in a different time. And his dad died young, leaving him, the oldest son of 17 years old, to step into that place. My dad knew how to take charge and he did it well. The social worker contacted me, apologized for the "misunderstanding" and promised she would resolve the issues between me and the "A parents"*.
I wish I could say she fixed the "misunderstanding." She pretended to try anyway. The agency offered me "follow up counseling," which I now understand to simply be a way of covering their bases in case I decided to do something "crazy" like kill myself. I tried to get help, but as a 19 year old girl I didn't understand my own mind, let alone how the world around me worked. I started cutting again, much more frequently now than ever before. The cutting wasn't about attention anymore and I became a master of it.
My parent's had hoped that in adopting away this child I would be able to get on with my life, clean slate, and do normal things that young adults do. They had hoped it would allow me to make friends, enjoy college, travel, have the freedom to discover who I was and what I wanted to be. My parent's did not anticipate the devastation that adoption would bring to my life. But I knew it. I knew that this would destroy me. I knew that all I had ever wanted in my life, since childhood, was to be a mom. I knew it, and I had tried to tell my mom how much this would hurt me on that night they confronted me. I think my mother knew. Her and my dad had tried almost 4 years to have a child when they got pregnant. She miscarried that child. My sister and I were her rainbow babies, conceived only a few months after the miscarriage. She has honestly never really talked to me about the pains of that miscarriage, but over the years I have seen that sadness come back to her from time to time when the topic comes up, so I know it is something she understands in her heart.
Regardless of all of that, the decision was ultimately something my dad decided. He has always been the first and last decision in our family. Everyone knows and understands that you follow suit. I had thought in this circumstance my mother would stand against my dad on my behalf. She didn't. Looking back now, I understand that she was in an impossible position. She couldn't stand against her husband, and she couldn't speak up on my behalf. At the time I didn't see it that way, and frankly I didn't care. I was sad. I was overwhelmingly sad. I had told my parents what I wanted. They didn't care. They forced their decision on me regardless. They should have known the pain I would be in. If they didn't know it before they would know it after, I made sure of that.
Adoption, children, girls, births, pregnancies, October, parents, families and many other things all became "hot" topics in our family. You don't talk about those things in front of Michelle. You have to tip toe carefully if you find yourself accidentally wandering into one of those topics. When one of these things came up I would become visibly stiff. I would instantly get quiet and physically move away from the conversation as much as possible with my head to the floor. I didn't know how to deal with my grief in front of others, so I would hide it.
October was awful for me, and I made sure it was awful for my family too. When October was approaching I would become mean, abusive, reclusive, sad. I would take out my pain on my family, especially my parents. I intentionally made sure my mother saw how grieved I was.
Before I knew it, the adoption became this big secret within our family. I don't know if that was the intention (for my parents I think it was) but because it was something that was so raw in my heart I couldn't talk about it with people, so I didn't. This grieving guilt trip went on for years.
This adoption secret was horrible for me. Just listen, when you are having a casual conversation with your aunt or friend. You will see just how often "tender" topics arise. Topics like kids and families come up very casually and often! After 5 years of grieving "alone" and feeling like I had to tip toe (on behalf of my own heart) around people who were accidentally tap dancing into tender parts of my heart with casual conversation, I finally said enough! I told my parents I had had it. I wasn't hiding anymore. Either they can contact their family members and tell them the truth or I would. They had dealt with this for 5 years now, and they were starting to understand that this was not something I was just going to get over. I needed this, I needed to feel like I could freely talk about what had happened to me. I needed to know that my poor heart was more important than their perceived reputation within their families. They went ahead and contacted the family members and told them the truth. They also added a clause (which I had requested) of please don't contact me unsolicited to ask questions and that all questions could come to them. Most of the family members were very respectful of this request.
Now it was out in the open. Everyone was free to talk or not talk about it. I thought that was the end of it. I will admit that it did help having everything out there. At least people were more careful in conversations with me (the ones who knew). I didn't feel like I was hiding some big secret. I was done feeling like I had to perform on behalf of my family. "Family secrets" is a term my mother used to use to describe something we kids knew that she didn't want others to know. A family secret was typically something like "we didn't go to bed until 1 am last night" or "my mother regifted that sweater". It didn't generally encompass life events and it was really asking far too much for me to just hold this in my heart and never talk about it.
Despite this whole thing being out there, and me now getting to claim that title "Birth Mom" to the public, I still encountered many experiences in general life that caused me pain over the years. I didn't know it, but I continued to carry that pain and not forgive. I thought I was over it. I really believed I had moved on. Yet somehow, every year October 6th would come and go and I would sink into depression, I would cut, I would binge, I would allow myself to sink into that deep dark place in my heart. I would allow depression to wash over me.
There is this amazing band that I fell in love with in 2012 called "Icon for Hire". They are a punk rock band, but the main singer/songwriter is a Christian. She recently released a book called "Turn Your Pain Into Art" by Ariel Bloomer and I highly recommend it. It is essentially her testimony and journey through the music industry and finding her voice and place in that world. She talks about her purpose, which she feels is essentially to bring Christ to those who are hurting. Hold up, I've hear that one before. The great commission? That's right, her purpose in the music she writes is to introduce Christ to people who are hurting and otherwise would not be reaching for him. After reading her book I understand so much better why her music spoke to my grieving Christian soul. I wanted so desperately to release my parents from the bondage I had enslaved them in, I didn't even realize that in the process I had imprisoned myself in depression.
"Depression is like a big fur coat, It's made of dead things but it keeps me warm." ~ Ariel Bloomer from Icon for Hire
This is one of my absolute favorite quotes from Icon for Hire. I listened to that song (and let's face it, all the rest of their songs) on repeat for years. The lyrics were so raw and rang so true in my spirit and I felt the music heavy in my heart. I will admit sometimes the music brought me down deeper in to depression, and other times it gave me hope and made me feel like I could rise above this depression, I could break free and be happy.
I cannot tell you what day it was, the day itself was unassuming and there was nothing eventful about what happened in any way. All I can say is that one day, while driving home from work and listening to Icon for Hire, suddenly God snapped something in me and I realized that I needed to forgive my parents. Genuinely. Honestly just forgive them, release them, and let this go. I went home and called my mom up. We spent 3 hours on the phone talking, and crying and apologizing and hashing out everything. And just like that it was over. I had let go of my bitterness, I had let go of my depression and I had released my parents. I finally understood what it meant to forgive a person. My parents had never officially apologized to me for any of what had happened. It didn't matter. I didn't need or want an apology. I was free and so were they. The year was 2015 and I had finally felt the ultimate freedom that comes with ultimate forgiveness.
That was the year I really started to fully comprehend what Christ's love and forgiveness for us is like. It is not something we have asked for. It is definitely not something we deserve. It is something that Christ gave us despite how horrible we are, and despite the fact that it causes him pain, and despite the fact that we will continue to harm him in the future. Christ gave us that forgiveness in spite of ourselves.
I cannot say that I haven't felt sorrow and sadness come over me since then. It's not as if it is something that just goes away. I can say that giving up that bitterness was life changing for me. I finally felt normal again. I was finally able to start having a life again. My husband and I decided it was time to start a family now (it HAD been 10 years). I would never have been able to move forward if I had continued to look back. God knew what I needed and when I needed it and how to get me to this end of the journey. If I had had to walk through this valley alone (as so many people who do not have Christ have to) I can say assuredly that I would not have made it.
Christ is so good in his provision and even after I had a child of my own (my sweet son Arthur) and then my second sweet boy (David), he continued to stand by me and he knew my heart. God knew and knows that my first child (her name is Elizabeth, although Dan and I would have named her Caitlyn) has always been on my heart. I try not to think about that life that I left behind, and instead pour myself into the blessings Christ has put into my life, my precious children, my amazing husband, my wonderful family and so many other blessings. I had given up on that past life entirely. It took the air out of my lungs when that past life came looking for me, all on her own.
*"A" parent is a common term in the adoption community meaning adoptive parent.
*"B" parent is a common term in the adoption community meaning birth parent. I find the terminology to be a very obvious example of how our society views and treats adoptive and birth parents. Where an adoptive parent is the "A" parent, someone worthy of praise for the amazing thing they have done, and someone who is prioritized. A "B" parent would then be a secondary parent, someone obviously less valuable and someone who is mediocre at best. I will write more about this in a later post.