I Can See the Horizon 

Sleep found me easily and peacefully. I usually suffer from insomnia and will lay awake for hours praying that slumber will come upon me. A peace I’d never known before washed over me as all of my children were under my roof in the same place at the same time. The people I value and love the most in this world. The ONLY people whose opinions about me I care about. I felt complete and whole.

But sad. Sad for what could have been. Sad for the upcoming goodbye. Sad from what my choice had taken from all of my kids without their permission. There had always been a feeling that someone was missing and while she was here that feeling was gone. But it would soon be back. Nevertheless I tried to revel in how lucky I was to even have this moment, this time, at all.

I have three daughters and two sons. Of all of my children, she is the most like me in every way. It’s almost scary how similar we are. Many times people would comment “its like looking at you when you were her age!” Or “She’s JUST like you at that age!”

And she is.

She’s tenacious, she has no filter, she looks like me, she sounds like me, she has the same mannerisms as me. Admittedly she does have my husband’s nose.

Driving to Taco Bell one day we said the exact same thing at the exact same time with the exact same inflection. That happens within families all the time. Families that you share DNA with. “That’s never happened to me before,” she said with surprise. And it kept happening. My sisters and I are always speaking in stereo. It made me think how sad it would be to go through life without ever hearing someone who sounded like you.

And she’s just like her sisters. When a neighbor started up his motorcycle too closely they all screamed, shook, and started crying. All three of them. All at the same time. DNA is some powerful stuff.

But she’s herself too. It was lovely to hear her talk about the things she loves, the places she’s seen, the people in her life she cares about and how they’ve impacted her.

And still there was this thing hanging in the air. All the shared memories we had that she didn’t. My family is big on talking about “Remember when this happened…” and then proceeding to tell a funny or shocking story. So while she was like us in every way, and fit in perfectly, there was always the elephant in the room that reminded us that she had been gone.

So many mixed emotions. So much to untangle.

My husband was smitten. He reminded me of a new father doting over his infant daughter. Except we had already doted on her when she was born. I can read this man better than anyone and the looks on his face said, “I’m in love with this beautiful creature.” As he should be. She’s pretty amazing if I do say so myself.

And here is where I decided that this blog has served its purpose. For now, anyway.

When I was hurting it was here. When I needed to vent it was here. When I was scared, anxious, worried, happy, hopeful, suffering, it was here. You were here. Some of you lifted me with your thoughts and others pissed me off. And that’s okay. Because sometimes I just needed a good fight and you engaged me.

I know this journey is ever evolving and I’m not completely abandoning this space. There may be a time in the future where I need it regularly again. But this journey is no longer just my own. Now that our lives have come together again, and she is again a part of mine, our stories are intertwined and it’s not up to me what to share.

I have let adoption consume my life. That’s not an entirely bad thing. I’ve found sisterhood and courage in this community. I’ve found courage to stand up, stand out, and help make changes. I will always be an activist. Always. But I’m also a mother and wife. I can’t spread myself too thin so I’ve decided to focus my energy on certain endeavors that will allow me to balance things more equally. I lost my grandfather, who helped raise me, and a beloved pet who was my emotional support animal, this year. The wheels of time don’t stop turning for me to sit behind a computer.

So while I’ve already bowed out of this blogging thing pretty much, I thought I’d leave you all with a happy update. I’ll pop in once in a while. But it’s time to take back my life and focus on where I can really make a change, enjoy my family, and still remain a functional member of society.

 

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Chasing Myself

Sometimes it feels as if adoption swallows EVERY. SINGLE. PART. OF. MY. LIFE. While I love what I do, the people I help, the people I educate, the people who help me, the people who educate me, sometimes I find myself shutting down in the adoption world as it all becomes extremely overwhelming at times. Since this is a personal journey, for me, like so many others, it is often hard to separate all the pain that I feel with what I’m trying to do. I still find that I am at a place where I am forever playing tug of war with acceptance and denial. Intellectually I know that I carried my daughter for nine months, gave birth to her after almost a full day of labor, nurtured her in her first days, and got to know her in her first weeks….and then said goodbye. While I was lucky to have been able to see her on two separate occasions during the first 2 years of her life, I had wanted so much more. The expectations that I had in my heart for how this whole journey would play out have been a let down, to put it mildly.

It’s so easy to push it all aside, try to forget about the whole thing and live your life day by day the best you know how. To think about it makes it real and sometimes my reality is too much to bear. As a middle-aged woman, I cannot fathom what in the world would have made me actually give my child to other people to raise, people who were pretty much strangers, only vetted by an adoption agency. Even if they were not criminals, or had no history of anything questionable, did I really give my child to people I didn’t know? How could I possibly know if they would be a good fit for her after just a few meetings and phone calls? The knowledge and wisdom that only years of living has given me makes me sick to my stomach at times. It’s just all too much to comprehend, to analyze, to think about, to read between the lines. Every time I monitor a support group, write a blog post, share stories to help institute change, read about another reunion gone wrong, I am reminded of all of this. I am reminded that no matter how much my daughter feels like my daughter, no different from my other children, she does not look at me as her mother, the same as her other mother. I am reminded that I cannot give her all the “things” that they have given her. Not even close. I am reminded that she may not care either way if I am a part of her life and I will have to accept that and move on. I am reminded that to accept that possible fate is the same as accepting a bullet wound in my heart, because that is what it will feel like.

This is the part of me that puts my feelings above others. The part that longs for my child, the part that longs for all the years lost. This is the part of me that doesn’t think about how she feels or anyone else for that matter. Obviously I DO care how my children feel, more than myself, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to feel it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have hurt. And sometimes that hurt is so monumental, so breathtaking, so extravagant, that I need to shut down, to go into hibernation. I need to pretend an adoption didn’t happen. I will go to a happy place or a place of distraction. I will focus on the kids I am parenting, getting that closet cleaned out, perfecting that paper I’m working on for school, cleaning out the garage or binge watching episodes of Desperate Housewives, The Walking Dead, or Grey’s Anatomy. I will do anything to escape being a “birthmother.” A woman who has lost the most precious thing any woman can be given, her child.

When I go into hibernation mode from adoption-land I will avoid, avoid, and avoid some more. I don’t want to hear about anything adoption, I don’t want to read about anything adoption and I don’t want to be reminded that adoption exists. Ironically, however, this is where I will become obsessed with my daughter. I will check my e-mail incessantly to see if her parents have decided to give me an update, I will have nightmares about her, and I will look through her pictures over and over. I will put myself into denial, she still exists but there was never a time that I wasn’t her mother. I am always playing tug of war.

I have also found that when I am totally immersed in all things adoption activism, most of the time I am using that to avoid my own feelings about my personal story. The more I write about injustices happening to other people, the easier it is to forget about my loss. Until it isn’t easier, until the two worlds merge, for just a moment, and I need to shut down again. It’s like the two things are totally separate entities, chasing each other, until one catches the other and the cycle starts again. Except, they aren’t separate, they are one in the same. My brain, my heart, my soul, still cannot accept that. Every cell in my body is screaming that there is no way that a loss so profound could have happened to me, to my family.

It is at times like these that I think about how easy it was for me to slip into “the fog.” That happy place of denial where all adoption was great and I was a hero and my daughter would come to me one day and tell me how awesome I was for giving her away to rich people who could buy her things and then we would ride off into the sunset as mother and daughter. I know how easy it is to slip back into that place. It was warm and cozy and there was no tug of war. Except there was. What my mind was denying, my soul was trying to work out. Because of my suppression of these things, my life, I’m absolutely positive, was sabotaged. The things I could have achieved took way longer and I found other ways of dealing with the pain I was denying I had. Most of this took form in the way of a hefty addiction to food, and it has and is taking me a lot of hard work to overcome it. Purging my soul, doing what I do, has helped tremendously.

Sometimes I have to go into hibernation mode for survival. If I didn’t then I just can’t imagine ever truly surviving adoption. Maybe one day I will get to a place of TRUE peace. No chasing, no tug of war, no regrets. I don’t really ever think that’s possible, though. I do know this, however. No matter how many “breaks” I need, I will never stop fighting, never stop speaking out, and never stop trying to spare others from this pain. For now I just have to try to find a happy medium, because there is no escape. It’s a mental prison, and I’ll be trapped in it forever. May as well make due with what I have.

Clara’s Update; A Look at Other Families Saved by SOS; The Evolution of Open Adoption

Today I’m going to cover a few things, but they will all tie together and are all related to one another.

Last week I told you a story about a prospective adoptive parent who started a campaign of harassment, threats, and coercion against a new mother who had opted NOT to relinquish her child and instead parent. I wanted to let you all know that over $1200 was raised in Clara’s name to help her and other expectant mothers to parent their children. I am truly amazed by the generosity of our community and how the efforts of all of us, for family preservation, have been so successful. I would like to share with you the receipt for Clara’s June rent in the name of accountability. Your money, your donations are going for exactly what they should be going for. Not ONE penny is used for anything else. 100% go directly to these families. Finding these moms, traveling, phone calls, fundraising – it is ALL done on a volunteer basis. We do not take ANY money that is donated.

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Obviously we don’t want to show identifying information. We are still in the business of protecting these people since what we do is still considered “controversial.” Get a load of that. Helping mothers to parent their children successfully is what is controversial. When did this ever come to be? We’ll talk some more about that later. For now I would also like to share with you some other families Saving Our Sisters has helped over the past couple of years. To do so I’m going to ask you to click right HERE. Don’t worry, it will open up in a new tab or window so that you can continue to read the rest of this article.

Did you go to the link? Did you see all the smiling, unbroken families? This is why we do what we do. This is what your donations go for. (Right now the link is private but you are free to send Lynn Johansenn a friend request to view or see my collage made from some of the pictures below)

savingsisters

Where did we get to this place? This place where otherwise fit mothers were forever giving up their babies for financial reasons? We know that during the baby scoop era most women were literally forced to give up their children. Many (most?) came from nice upstanding families. While the women, themselves, did not have an income, their families would have been able to give the proper support for them to finish college and raise their child. This didn’t happen because of the shame a child out-of-wedlock would have branded the family with. So, instead of helping, these parents sent their daughters away to give birth alone and to have those babies taken and given to someone else. Threats and force ran a muck to make sure this happened. This is how we got the name “Baby Scoop Era.” It was literally a scooping of babies. (See more about my comparison on the baby scoop era and coercion era here)

Over time, laws were enacted, pregnancy out-of-wedlock became more socially acceptable and shame slowly became a moot point. No one was giving up their babies based on shame or force anymore, or at least in very rare circumstances. There was a transition period between the baby scoop era and the era of open adoption. This time period is where white newborn infants were slowly in decline while the demand for them continued to rise.

The adoption industry knew it had to do something.

This is where I will take some quotes from a NY Times article that was written on April 5, 1987 about adoption.

The article is entitled:

“ADOPTION MARKET: BIG DEMAND, TIGHT SUPPLY”

To summarize, the article goes into how the supply of healthy white newborns is on the decline while the demand for them is rising. The article cites the legalization of abortion and less stigma on pregnancy out-of-wedlock as the reasons. This is only half right, though. Let’s explore “less stigma,” shall we?

The article states, “According to the National Committee for Adoption, an association of 130 private adoption agencies, adoptions between unrelated people in the United States declined to 50,720, from 82,800, from 1971 through 1982, the last year for which complete data are available.” (Side note: why is there no longer any data kept?) 1971 -1982. The early 1970’s was about the end of the baby scoop era. Seeing as Roe vs. Wade was in 1973 I can see how adoption advocates would like to blame legalized abortion for the decline of infants available. I maintain that it was the END of the baby scoop era that facilitated this decline. My proof is the change of tactics from the industry. WHY did the baby scoop era end? This has nothing to do with legalized abortion. It has EVERYTHING to do with the cultural shift of acceptance of unwed mothers. No stigma, no shame. You are free to parent your child. And ever since this cultural shift there has been a rise in babies being born to unwed mothers. Even WITH legalized abortion.

Yes, less stigma means less women being forced into an adoption, does it not? What was that era called where shame and stigma were used to force a woman to hand over her baby? Oh yeah, the baby scoop era. So what happens when you can no longer shame women into giving up their babies? What do you do? You change the game plan. You offer them an “open adoption.”  Let’s now focus on another article. This one is from the Chicago Tribune and was written December 15, 1985.

The title of this article is:

“When Adopted Children Know Their Roots”

This article focuses on the “radicalism” of open adoption during that time period and interviews one family with two adopted children in “open adoptions.” I use that term loosely, based on the article, because they really aren’t truly open adoptions but rather what would be considered a semi-closed adoption by today’s standards. There is no direct contact between the children and their natural parents.

“We were really worried about the number of children raised in this adoption-lie system, giving rise to adults now saying that it was their birth right to know what their parents looked like, what did they think, what did they feel,“ says Janet Cravens-Garner, the agency`s regional director.” This is a quote from Lutheran Social Services at the time. Let me point out, using today’s standards, that the reason she gives for starting to facilitate open adoption is, in my opinion, a lie. The adoption industry has fought, and is STILL fighting, for sealed records for adoptees. If they were so concerned about the adoptees rights then these agencies would be lobbying Congress for open records everywhere. Instead they fight it. No, the real reason they started offering open adoptions is because they could not get women to hand over their babies without the promise of knowing how they were doing. It was a tactic that began to become employed in an attempt to meet the demand of infertile couples everywhere. The supply wasn’t there and, as we learned earlier, was on a steady decline thanks to a cultural shift.

“By the end of the hour and a half meeting, Susan Dangerfield had charmed her. She was glad that Chris would have a father who would take him fishing.

‘It was kind of like a proud feeling, like I`d chosen the right family for him,’ she says. `I felt I wasn`t losing a son, I was gaining very close friends and some people who were really going to take care of Chris.”

This quote from the article. This one up here? This is the very definition of open adoption coercion. Susan Dangerfield, if you read the article, is the prospective adoptive parent. Chris is the newborn infant. Susan had managed to “charm” her and made the new mother feel, via the open adoption promise, that she could relinquish her son to Susan.

Open adoption coercion. Using the promises of contact to gain a child from a mother.

I did manage to find Susan Dangerfield on Facebook and am happy to report she does keep up friendships with both of her sons’ birthmothers (at least from what I can tell on her Facebook friends list). This still does not take away from the fact that open adoption was used to procure more infants that would probably, otherwise, be raised by their original families.

Open adoption coercion, since we are talking about that, leads me to another article. One I read today, a recent one.

“COURT UPHOLDS MOVE TO GIVE BABY TO BIOLOGICAL PARENTS IN OPEN ADOPTION GONE AWRY”

Written May 29, 2015.

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that promises of an open adoption to a birthmother is a form of coercion.

In other words, if a woman is relinquishing her parental rights based on the promise of continued contact, and that contact is not carried out, or never was intended to be carried out, she has been COERCED out of her child.

I know this case rings particularly true for me. If I had not been promised an open adoption I would never had relinquished. I knew it wasn’t binding in court but I still believed that these were good people who would keep their word.

There it is, in writing. A legal precedent. THE SUPREME COURT OF NEBRASKA JUST RULED OPEN ADOPTION PROMISES, WITHOUT FULFILLMENT, IS COERCION.

And I quote, “Until the Legislature acts to approve of these open adoption arrangements  in a private adoption context, this court will NOT recognize them.”

“Any agreements signed with the promise of an open adoption will remain invalid in the courts eyes.”

Are we finally recognizing that we have moved from forcing women to give up their babies to coercing them out of their babies? This is a BIG first.

How does all of this tie to Clara? Well, Clara didn’t fall for it. Clara was saved from the coercion of an “open adoption agreement.” Clara did not fall victim. The sad thing is that for everyone ONE Clara, there are thousands of other mothers who have no idea what they are about to embark on and believe the coercion. What Clara did was a #bravelove. She is courageous and selfless. I applaud  you, Clara.

clara

Guilt, Coercion, Threats – A New Mom Changes Her Mind – SOS In Action

UPDATE: Almost $1100 was raised for Clara in less than 24 hours! You are all amazing!!

As some of you may know, we are in the process of legitimizing our grassroots organization called Saving Our Sisters (SOS). The goal of SOS is to help vulnerable women avoid adoption relinquishment. Over the past couple of years the organization’s brain child and front-runner, Lynn Johansenn, has helped dozens of women, that had decided to utilize adoption, to keep their babies and successfully parent. SOS offers whatever support is needed to achieve this. Sometimes the support is emotional, sometimes financial, and sometimes legal. Most people who have been helping with this are members of the adoption community themselves. They include birth/first/natural mothers, adoptees, and even a couple of adoptive parents. When the alarm call is sounded, this vast network of people contributes to what is needed and we always end up with enough for the new mom.

Initially, when hearing about an expectant mother who is set on an adoption “plan,” she is approached gently and given the encouragement she needs to know she is worthy of parenting her child and that SOS will do whatever it takes to make that possible. Each reason that a mother has to contemplate adoption is systematically removed with our wonderful network of donors and volunteers. Some harsh realities about the possibilities (probabilities?) in adoption are taught and then the ball is in her court. She is left with contact information, if she declines help at that time, if she changes her mind after the birth of the baby.

If a mother contacts us and needs help we will immediately send out a local contact to be by her side. This contact will go through the needs and even speak on her behalf to the adoption agency, attorney, or prospective adoptive parents so there need not be any awkward moments. We literally do anything we need to do to make the change of mind as easy as possible for the new mother.

More often than not, after the mother has changed her mind and the prospective adoptive parents have been informed, a series of harassment and coercion, coming from selfish people who will do anything to get their hands on the baby they think they have been “promised,” ensues. Prospective adoptive parents, in general, seem to think they are more worthy and more deserving of someone else’s child and will pull out all stops to coerce her, even threaten her, into signing over her rights.

I would like to introduce you to Clara’s* story. Clara is a young mother in Kansas who was expecting a baby within days. Help and information were offered to her. She originally declined but, after the birth of her baby, changed her mind and reached out for help.

Clara had already picked out prospective adoptive parents and was in the process of beginning a private (non-agency) adoption. Since there was no agency the prospective adoptive’s parents’ attorney was pretty much running the legal show. I have no information about how she came about picking this couple or if she was coerced during her pregnancy. I can only speculate. What I do know about Clara is this: She is a hard-working, frugal, single mother who does a kick ass job as a mother. She manages to provide with very little and does damn good with it. She is smart, level-headed, and loving. The father of the baby she just delivered ran out on her with another woman. He wanted nothing to do with the new baby. Clara’s story is so familiar. I’ve heard it time and time again. Are these ideal circumstances to bring a child into the world? Well, no, not really. Does that mean it’s impossible to successfully parent this child? Absolutely not. I’m sure Clara could think of family members or friends that would be willing to be a positive male role model in her child’s life. After deciding to parent she had an outpouring of support from family, friends and her community. Bottom line is this, Clara is worthy of parenting her child and her child is worthy of staying in his original family, of keeping that family intact. When this is a possibility it should always be this way. Adoption should always and only be a last resort.

I’ve discussed coercion, guilt trips, and all sorts of other fun stuff that goes on behind the scenes in adoption land. I often hear new birthmoms say “that doesn’t happen anymore” or “that didn’t happen to me.” Let this stand as a testament that it does indeed still happen, and often. Ask yourself how your child’s adoptive parents would have behaved if you changed your mind?

I did, indeed, make an adoption plan for my youngest daughter (the daughter that was born after my relinquished daughter). I asked the adoptive parents of IKL to adopt her. I changed my mind. When they learned of this change of mind they said, “You will never see IKL again.” Visits were stopped. That was 12 years ago. I have not seen her since. Initially they tried to talk me into giving the baby up. Telling me how it would be selfless and I would be giving her all sorts of things that she wouldn’t get with me. When that didn’t work they resorted to threats. Threatening to take IKL out of my life. When I didn’t relent they made good on their promise.

Meet Becky, prospective adoptive parent. This is her text message to Clara after learning she had changed her mind.

Screen shot number one.

Screen shot number one.

Screen shot number two.

Screen shot number two.

Guilt and coercion. “Look how upset we are. Please still consider adoption. We can give your baby what you can’t. We are more deserving. We’ll let you pick the middle name! See how great and open we are!” That is the message I’m getting from this text message. Notice she mentions Tom. This is the father of the baby. She is using Clara’s fear of a court battle (which she knows full and well would never really get to the point of “fighting” just based on custody laws) with Tom to attempt to sway her into handing over her baby. Pretty disgusting. But it get’s better.

Screen shot number three.

Screen shot number three.

When Becky’s attempt to coerce and scare Clara didn’t work, she resorted to having her sister text message Clara. More guilt. She even goes so far to call her selfish for parenting her child. Do these people not understand this baby is not and never was theirs? This is just more of the same, trying to get her to sign over rights via guilt and making her feel like a bad person – selfish – for parenting HER child.

Screen shot number four.

Screen shot number four. He meant to say, “if you are NOT willing to let the child be adopted.”

So here’s where things get “Are you kidding me?!” This is the bio father’s text message to Clara. Here’s what you need to remember. Clara did NOT give her contact information to Tom (the bio father). He attained this message through the adoptive parents somehow, most likely their attorney. As you’ll remember from the first text message, Becky was trying to convince Clara to give up her baby to protect the baby from Tom (bio dad). If Becky was truly concerned about the baby’s safety would she be giving out Clara’s contact information to Tom? Even if it was through a third-party such as her attorney? Of course not. This is, yet again, another tactic to scare Clara. This time with direct threats from the bio dad. When Becky’s text message didn’t work, and then her sister’s didn’t either, she now tried FORCE. Coercion and guilt wasn’t working, right? Let’s FORCE her hand into giving us her baby. Let’s scare her…even if it really does put the baby at risk. Who cares. We want what we want and we’ll do anything to get it.

This is the face of adoption. Expectant mothers heed this warning. The same people who are nice to you, that you feel “connected” to, that you LOVE SO MUCH, I would estimate 90% of them would turn into this if you changed your mind. They have one goal in mind – to get a baby. They are shameless and will stop at nothing to do it.

Dear Becky,

Go fuck yourself you entitled piece of shit.

Dear Becky’s sister,

Noneya.

Dear Tom,

Go ahead and try. I dare you.

Where does this leave Clara? Well, none of this is working on her, thank God. The ONLY thing Clara needs right now is her rent of $500 paid since she was not able to scrape that together being at the end of her pregnancy. We don’t usually ask for monetary donations straight up but, in this case, it is needed greatly. Her rent is due on the 1st. As of now we do NOT have tax exempt status so your donation would not be tax-deductible. However, if you would like to donate to the PayPal account that is being used to help Clara with rent next month (and if we get enough rent NEXT month as well) it would be greatly appreciated.

To donate to Clara please message Lynn Johansenn on facebook HERE.

What Clara is doing is #bravelove.

Adoption is #notabravelove

*Name changed to protect new mother

Sibling Grief In Adoption

“I never know what to say when someone asks me how many brothers or sisters I have.”

This came out of my 12-year-old’s mouth while I was driving the other day. There was no warning for a statement such as this. No conversation that I can think of that brought it on. We were listening to the radio and she just blurted it out. It caught me off guard and I wasn’t really sure what to say. I have tried my best not to shroud in secrecy that her father and I relinquished the daughter that came before her. I would never want to give any of my children the impression that IKL is someone we should be ashamed of or someone who should be kept secret. To do so would deny her and denying her would be to deny our love for her. Regardless of this, for a child growing up with a sister who has been lost to adoption, challenges unique to these “parented children” are most definitely present. She is not ashamed of her sister and would love for nothing more than to have some sort of relationship with her. She used to be very vocal about how she has four siblings, not three. It seems that, over time, the reactions she has garnered from people have made her more aware that she has lost something. She is now uncomfortable disclosing to people that she has another sister, out there in the world, that she doesn’t know. She is uncomfortable with the fact that she doesn’t know her and this is, most likely, what is bothering her the most.

It is in moments like this that I freeze. Mom is supposed to have all the answers and yet I stumbled along not knowing exactly what was best to say. Instead of offering her a solution I sympathized with her. I stated, “I know how you feel, honey. Sometimes when people ask me how many kids I have I don’t know what to say either.” Her reply emphasized her guilt. If she did not include IKL in the “sibling count” then it made her feel horrible to dismiss someone so important in her life, her sister. If she did include her the questions came – some of them she could not answer and it reminded her that she had suffered a loss in her life, a tremendous loss. She was clearly looking to me for advice and stalling was not good enough. She wanted answers from me.

“You know that you don’t have to tell people how many siblings you have if they aren’t someone important in your life, right? You can say ‘I’d rather not discuss my sisters and brothers.’ and that is okay.” This was not a good enough answer for her. She said, “Well, like on worksheets at school when sometimes they ask you how many siblings you have or when you have to write about your family or family tree. That stuff. I feel like I’m lying if I don’t include her and I feel like I’m lying if I do.” And there it is. The catalyst for her dilemma. It is a legal lie to say that she has another sister, an emotional one to say she doesn’t. Where does the middle ground exist? It really doesn’t. She continued, “You know because I’m like really close to G and D and M but I’m not so close to IKL.” It was with this statement that my heart wanted to break into a million pieces. “Not so close” wasn’t sufficient enough to describe the lack of relationship between A and IKL. There was no relationship. She didn’t know her at all. Yes, A has written her letters, but the communication has been one-sided. IKL has never spoken to A. In A’s mind, however, it wasn’t safe to admit this. She needed to say they were “not so close.”

I had no answers for her. I told her that she should do what her heart told her to do and screw everyone else. Yes, that’s what I told her. If it made her feel uncomfortable to have to explain that she had a sister that was relinquished, then don’t tell them. If it made her feel bad to deny her sister, then do tell them. Still she was unsatisfied. Both of those options left her feeling bad. I told her how sorry I was because that was all I could do. One last statement and the conversation was done. “I just wish I never had a sister that was adopted out and that she just lived with us and we were normal.” My heart broke some more.

When going over options and deciding whether we should “choose” adoption, our other children were taken into consideration. The experts were telling us that we needed to consider the financial and emotional strain a new baby would place on the kids we already had. Another mouth to feed and care for would take away from them and they may suffer for it. I never imagined that the heartache adoption would wreak in my children’s lives would be so much worse than going without material things for a little while or having one more person to share mom with. My 12-year-old’s psychologist, in her first report, wrote that A told a story about a frog. The frog’s sister had been given up for adoption and the frog worried about this sister all the time.  She noted, “Underlying anxiety issues in regards to biological sister relinquished for adoption” How could this possibly be? I was told that my children would be better off. How could the ONLY child who has not one memory of the daughter I gave up be suffering so much? This was not supposed to be, yet it was and it is. There is nothing I can do to make it better. I am powerless. I cannot force a relationship and I cannot take back the years that were lost. I don’t have a time machine. I can only try to help her through her grief while I am still navigating mine.

I know that some of you may be thinking that she is picking up on things I have said or done. To that I say, “Are you stupid?” Why in the world would I project my feelings onto her? IKL is talked about as something positive in our household and nothing else. A has come to feel this pain on her own accord, because something is missing in her life. Already having one older sister she knows that bond that sisters share, which adds to this. She is constantly thinking about the “what could have been.”

Should I have never told my children about IKL or the adoption at all? Then they wouldn’t have known or felt any of this grief. No, they wouldn’t have. Not at all growing up. Except when they did find out, and they would have, it may have been more destructive and devastating for ALL of my kids, IKL included. I refuse to keep her a secret. She deserves more than that. And I refuse to lie to my children. Even if it is a lie by omission. These lies will have to be addressed one day and I do not want to go down that rabbit hole.

Sibling grief in adoption loss is very real. Parented children, born prior to placement as well as after, are affected by it. There are no books about it, no expert advice. There isn’t even a children’s book in existence that deals with the loss of a sibling to adoption. There are literally no tools to help parented children navigate adoption. What I’m learning is that they do face a lot of the same challenges that us adults face. The only difference is they had no say so in it at all. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Like adoptees who sometimes feel like their lives are not in their own control, parented children can sometimes feel the same way.

It can hit you like a ton of bricks, the realization that your choices have caused your children psychological issues. Some will say, “Well, we’re going to have an open adoption so my children will always know their brother/sister and won’t have these problems.” I just laugh. I was going to have an open adoption, too. Go ahead and make your plans and hopefully they will work out. But when they don’t, you’ll be left picking up the pieces.