“Within the realm of Open Adoption, the mythology has changed in telling ways from that of the closed system. With an increased acceptance of single parenthood, rather than the promiscuous/sinner label that marked single mothers of the closed system, women who consider adoption now are often elevated to the status of saintly/selfless — at least until the papers are signed. With less social shame involved in an unplanned pregnancy, the industry has had to make adoption more culturally palatable – more apparently humane to such a “selfless” woman and her child.”
Long, but worth reading:
Under the current system, not only do adopters create the rules when it comes to contact between first mother and her placed child, they also make them regarding contact between the first mother’s placed child and her raised children. After years of seeing and hearing disturbing reports about sibling relationships in Open Adoption being controlled solely by the whim or comfort level of adoptive parents at a given time, I have come to view the first mother’s raised children as the forgotten children of open adoption. The plight of these kids remains virtually un-addressed in any meaningful way within the adoption community.
After the closure of what had been an Open Adoption, one birthmother who turned to counseling was surprised when her therapist used the model of parental abduction in treatment. The limbo grief, the perpetual wondering, the feeling that she must do whatever the adoptive parents requested to maintain scraps of information about her child, along with her conflicting feelings of compassion and rage toward her child’s adoptive family, were all elements shared by mothers and fathers who had lost children to family abduction. The type of grief experienced in adoption (closed or open in an unhealthy manner ) is so uniquely painful that it has also been compared to that experienced by the families of soldiers missing in action.
Still other original mothers are forced to present themselves as “aunts” or “step sisters” in order to see their children. Under the spell of an industry that deems them lucky to even glimpse their children, these women report that their children’s adoptions are open. Open at what price? In denying their very identity not only are they participating in a lie, such women must also repress and deny a myriad of conflicting messages and a Pandora’s Box of grief. Yet, it’s not hard for any mother to comprehend why these women continue to submit — when it is the only means of maintaining contact with their children.
Common themes accompany this sort of loss with regard to Open Adoption, with the primary theme being the birthparent’s silence. In order not to upset the chance contact will continue or may resume after a period of no contact, these mothers become bound and muted to varying degrees. The silence can manifest in fear of speaking out to the adoptive parents, the agency, or to anyone about the betrayal of the agreement, lest daring to do so make matters worse. The binding manifests in the inability to act on their children’s behalf, even when they witness family dynamics that are harmful to their child. Unfortunately, because of the power imbalance in an Open Adoption relationship, this fear is based on a reality which is often realized upon confrontation.
Boss recognizes that “because ambiguous loss is a loss that goes on and on, those who experience it become physically and emotionally exhausted from the relentless uncertainty.” In this way, ambiguous loss can resemble Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in that the lack of resolution “traumatizes.” However, with ambiguous loss, Boss notes that the trauma continues to exist in the present. “It is not post anything,” writes Boss. Survivors of ambiguous loss describe the trauma as “a roller coaster ride, during which they alternate between hope and hopelessness. A loved one is missing, then sighted, then lost again.”
So it is with all the love and the rage and the gut instinct of any mother, our sights become set, our energy poised on seeing The Wall come down. Our heads throbbing from beating against it, our fingers bloodied from trying to pry that last hole open, our tongues thick with unspoken outrage, The Wall has driven some of us to our knees. Yet, here we may be lifted by a truth greater than The Wall. A staggering truth that no piece of paper, no human being, no mere brick-and-mortar facade can take from us — the truth of our motherhood.
I don’t even have a copy of the adoption contract that I signed. I just realized how screwed up that is. It was a private adoption, so I have no agency to go through. To think that I was that far gone mentally, that I wouldn’t even request a copy of the adoption papers where I signed my parental rights away… Well, that just blows my mind. Everything about this situation feels so fragile. It’s so heavy.