This might not be terribly lucid. Most of today I spent online and pottering around, still distracting myself. Tonight I fired up a search engine and had a look for some of the organisations mentioned in the “Gone to a good home” documentary last night. Here’s an article about the organisation origins. My daughter and her friends have been around today, but one can hardly discuss this sort of emotional turmoil and grief with thirteen year olds.
So I’ll post some links. As I said, it was very affirming to hear other women, adopted children and psychologists describe the pain of adoption. What I feel is real. It is justified. While it may all be in my head, so to speak, that doesn’t reduce the impact and now it is not invalid or imaginary. Whew! Ugh!
Regarding youth suicide…
Many adoptees feel that they don’t belong in their adoptive families, or even that they don’t belong in this world, since they didn’t know anyone who looks like them. Separation from one’s biological mother causes a “primal wound” and results in feelings of abandonment, loss, rejection and powerlessness.
Many adoptive parents have high expectations of the ‘perfect’ children they adopted (and of themselves as parents), and along with “absence of kinship” this may lead to abuse in the adoptive family. When there are both biological and adoptive children in the same family, the adopted children are more likely to suffer abuse.
A Jesuit Priest, who works with homeless young people in St Kilda, said that of the 147 suicides of young people in the area over the past decade, 142 came from adoption related backgrounds. (Melbourne Age,30.6.93).
View full page…
And another on the experiences of single mothers. While most of these are much worse than where I was, the homes I was sent to were quite lenient in comparison to these stories, the experiences of physical molestation during medical examinations rings a loud bell.
Many if not most mothers have little if any memory of the birthing process. For many they not only stole their baby’s but also stole their only experience of giving birth. Millions of taxpayers dollars on the other hand, are spent on perfecting procedures to enable infertile women the opportunity of experiencing childbirth which is considered to be the natural right of every female human being. The medical profession involved in the adoption process saw unmarried mothers as being lower than human beings and no better than animals. It wasn’t enough that they stole the babies, by annihilating the essence of a woman treating mothers like they were having abortion, for many mothers they had to steal their only memory and experience of giving life, of procreation. Irrespective of future counselling, there is no recovery from the experience of such a birth and of not having ever one’s own flesh and blood at birth.
And if that’s not enough, here’s some detailed discussion of the post partum psychological effects…
She [researcher] compares the separation of adoption to the separation of a child through death. The loss is as irrevocable in terms of relationship.
Borromeo notes that the surrendering mother knows that acceptance back into her family circle is dependent on her ability to “put it all behind her”, and so she is under double pressure to do this and suppress her grief. In cases where this is done it is not unusual to find a severe breakdown in self control occurring somewhere around the child’s first birthday.
And how does such supressed or incomplete mourning affect the mother?
Anniversary reactions are among the most interesting phenomena seen in clinical practice. These reactions are time specific psychological or physiological events which occur or reoccur in response to traumatic events in the individuals past, or in the past of a person with whom the individual is closely identified. The individual attempts to relive or re-experience the traumatic event again in a repetitious way, in anticipation of being able to master the trauma which was not mastered previously.
Freud was the first to recognize anniversary reactions in 1885. Pollock. (1971) describes the anniversary reaction as a response of the mind which is triggered by the anniversary of a personal loss or disappointment. Various case histories are described, indicating that a variety of physical and psychological problems may occur as anniversary responses.
Depressive disorders, ranging from very mild depression to psychotic level disorders, may occur on an anniversary basis. Heart attacks, pleurisy and pneumonia, suicides, and phobic fear are also attributed to anniversary reactions. Pollock (1971) has written extensively on the subject. He believes that these reactions are due to incomplete or abnormal mourning over a personal loss or disappointment.
Hilgard (1953) has written extensively on anniversary reactions. She reports that depression or psychotic reactions may be precipitated as anniversary reactions to childhood sibling deaths.
Various disease processes have been described as somatic equivalents or expressions of anniversary reactions. Weiss et.al. (1957) have described hypertensive crises, irritable bowel syndromes, and coronary occlusion as anniversary responses. Rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headache and dermatologic conditions have also been described as anniversary reactions.
In other words, you’re screwed. Have a read of the whole page about the effects on birth mothers…
At this point I’m not sure whether I want to curl up on the ground and howl like a wounded animal or go out and punch someone. Might settle for a beer and do some meditation later. That’s about the only thing that comes close to touching this stuff.
So how was it for the child who was adopted? Did I mention that I’m adopted too? Heh, as I said, I’ve copped this from both sides… Understandably, there isn’t a whole lot of tolerance around here for people who criticise abortion as being unnatural and destructive to the emotions of a woman.
In Marshall D.Schechter. M.D.’s, (Beverly Hills California), paper on the Observations of Adopted Children. In a series of cases seen by [Schechter] the percentage of adopted children was 13.3 as compared with the national average of 0.134. This indicates a hundredfold increase of patients in this category compared with what could be expected in the general population.
Oh, okay, so lots of them ended up in counselling. What for?
Schechter goes on to say; the striking thing in most cases was that the feature of their adoptive status played a significant role in the underlying dynamics of the problem.
He observed in many of his case studies on adopted children symptoms relating to such things as fantasies and “acting out” regarding the real parents, i.e. their appearance, their names and killing and murder especially toward their real mother.
Observations also included outbursts toward the adoptive parents telling them they would not do as the parents say because they were not their real parents. He also goes on to say that adopted children suffer symptoms of depression, feelings of incompleteness, phobic fear of abandonment, anxiety, aloofness and distancing of them selves which made close relationships impossible.
Schechter also noted hyperactivity and unmanageability in children of a young age. He also observed, particularly with one child, that it had relationships of the same quality with strangers as his parents, namely, superficial and dominated by a driving need to have his impulses satisfied immediately. The child could easily be comforted by a stranger as easily as by his mother.
In the behaviour of young adopted girls Schechter observed instances of such things as sex-play, exhibitionism, seductiveness and regression. He also noted in cases of adopted boys, problems of lying, stealing, and lack of integration with others.
Dr. Povl W. Toussieng. M.D. Dr Toussieng was a child psychiatrist at The Menninger Clinic Topeka, Kansas.
Dr Toussieng suggests that adopted children seem more prone to emotional disturbances than non-adopted children; he concludes that their conflicts are caused by their adoptive parents unresolved resistance to parenthood.
He says that in spite of careful screening of adopted children and their prospective parents prior to adoption, a disproportionately large percentage of these children eventually come to psychiatric or other professional attention because of emotional, educational or social problems.
The fact that sixty one percent of the first and only child in an adopting family were particularly prone to disturbances suggested that they should look elsewhere than in the children themselves for the factors contributing to later disturbances. The children presented at the Childrens Service tended to present many severe difficulties.
Ah-huh. Apparently in one peer reviewed journal the psychiatrists began referring to “the adoption syndrome”. I feel better already.
This one’s from Australia:
ADOPTIVE ANXIETY, RAGE AND GUILT. 1985.
Silverman. M.A. 1985. Discusses in his paper that when adoptive status is foisted upon a child, the child is encumbered with so many problems that he or she is at risk of developing a host of psychological problems. This is particularly so if the child learns of [her] adoption at an early age.
These can be unhappiness, separation problems, difficulty knowing and learning, aggressive fantasies and acts, preoccupation with knives and other weapons, and his feelings of being deprived and robbed.
Adoptive status tends to affect multiple aspects of the developing personality. It interferes with the childs sense of security, the modulation of and channelling of the child’s aggression, the development and resolution of the Oedipus complex, super-ego formation, and identity formation.
To lose a parent early in life, especially when there is a felt element of cruel rejection and desertion, as there tends to be when a child is told of adoption while still in the throes of “sadistic-anal” ambivalence and the hostile-dependent struggles of the reproachment crisis of separation-individuation, mobilizes in tense fear and rage. The rage at the abandoning parents is in part directed toward the adoptive parents.
In part the rage is turned back on the self, contributing to the fantasy that the child was abandoned by the original parents because he or she was bad, troublesome, greedy, and destructive.
Silverman goes on to say “nearly every adopted child or adult I have treated sooner or later has revealed the fantasy that the reason for the adoption was the biological mother died in childbirth, which tends to be depicted as a tearing, ripping, bloody, murderous affair in which the baby gains life by taking the life of the mother”.
(my emphasis, though my words would have been ‘worthless, hopeless and useless.’)
Now that knife thing is really weird. Though I’ve wondered if my bio-mum is still alive, I don’t think I’ve worried that she died being torn apart. Though it really rides me that she’s never made any attempt to find me. As a kid, though, the knife thing was really weird. There are some other details that might influence that, but let’s stick with the links…
Here’s the full article about adoptive children.
The two things that seem common, well, three really, in these experiences are anger, depression and the mention of “Borderline Personality Disorder”. This is worth a mention, well, guess why? Bingo. I’m in therapy right now. Well, not right at this minute, I’m distracting myself typing away at this thing… but you know what I mean.
Here’s more ringing bells…
ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOUR IN ADOPTEES. ADOPTED CHILD SYNDROME.
Kirshner.D. Nagel.L. 1988.
Is there a distinct pattern of presenting behaviours and symptoms among adopted children and adolescents referred for psychotherapy? Some clinicians and clinical researchers whose day to day observations strongly suggest that such a pattern does, in fact exist. The senior author has observed extreme provocative, aggressive, antisocial, and delinquent conduct much more consistently among adoptees than their non-adopted counterparts.
Behind the recurrent behavioural and personality patterns there have emerged emotional and psychodynamic issues specifically linked to adoption.
Schecter, Carlson, Simmons, & Work (1964) looked at adopted and non-adopted children in a psychiatric setting and found a much greater occurrence of overt destructive acts and sexual acting-out among adoptees. Menlove (1965) used a similar sample and found significantly more aggressive symptomatology among adoptees. Although several predicted differences were significant, adoptees had significantly more hyperactivity, hostility, and negativism, and significantly more of them had passive-aggressive personalities.
What then is the adopted child syndrome? On the behaviourial level, it it is an antisocial pattern that usually includes pathological lying, stealing, and manipulativeness. Fire setting is sometimes seen and promiscuous behaviour is common.
Typically, the child seeks out delinquent, antisocial children or adults often of a lower economic class than the adoptive family. Provocative, disruptive behaviour is directed toward authority figures, notably teachers and parents. The child often threatens to run away, and in many cases repeatedly does so.
Truancy is common, as well as academic under-achievement and, in many cases there are significant learning problems. There is a typically shallow quality to the attachment formed by the child, and a general lack of meaningful relationships. The child reports feeling “different” and “empty”.
Fuck, I never knew any of that and yet so much of it could be describing me. And were my adoptive parents told that this was likely? The original studies were done before I was born, so this research could have figured into direction to be given to people adopting children… Could have. If anyone gave a fuck. Heh, now I’m angry.
Two years after I gave birth to my eldest daughter, there was a Human Rights Commission into the effects of adoption on birth mothers… It might have been helpful to hear about some of that, particularly when I was in the midst of my first breakdown.
Almost all the women reported they had received little or no help from family, friends or professionals. Over half of them had used alcohol or sedative medication to help them cope after relinquishment. Almost all reported that they dealt with their distress by withdrawing and bottling up their feelings. One third had subsequently sought professional help.
A most striking finding in the present study is that the majority of these women reported no diminution of their sadness, anger and guilt over the considerable number of years which had elapsed since their relinquishment. A significant number actually reported an intensification of these feelings especially anger.
Watson. K.W. : Birth Families: Living with the Decision. 1986. Birth parents who place children for adoption are expected to live a lie the rest of their lives. The adoption eliminates the public record of the childs birth, and the birth parents are counselled by family, friends and social agencies to go on with their lives as if the pregnancy never occurred. This socially sanctioned denial not only interferes with the resolution of grief, but intensifies the parents’ poor self-image by reinforcing the idea that what they have done is so heinous that it must be concealed forever.
If you read further in the article, it is mentioned that the fathers of these children also experience deep emotional trauma, similar to that of having a still-born child.
This might be the note on which to finish. From 1993:
Sue Wells, giving extracts in her presentation to a conference in Amsterdam based on her research into post traumatic stress (PSTD) which is defined as the development of symptoms following a psychologically distressing event that is outside of the usual human experience. Serious attention is now being given to the trauma attached to the separation and loss of the mother and child through adoption, and the profound and long term effects this can have on both of them.
A survey conducted on 300 birthmothers suggested that the loss of their children constitutes a trauma which may be life long. Almost half of them say it had affected their physical health, and almost all say it affected their mental health. This in turn has affected their interpersonal relationships with family, partners and the parenting of subsequent children.
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many birthmothers say they split themselves off from their trauma as a coping mechanism. This avoidance as a strategy is one of the key symptoms of PTSD which Allison says may be caused by the trauma being internalised to avoid immediate pain. Many say they escaped into drugs and alcohol or precocious sexual activity, especially in the year or so after relinquishment. Most say they felt numb, shocked, empty, sad and many said they felt the same way many years later.
Adoption is a violent act, a political act of aggression towards a woman who has supposedly offended the sexual mores by committing the unforgivable act of not supressing her sexuality, and therefore not keeping it for trading purposes through traditional marriage. . . the crime is a grave one, for she threatens the very fabric of our society. The penalty is severe. She is stripped of her child by a variety of subtle and not so subtle manoeuvres and then brutally abandoned. How many are set free? How many (birthmothers) remain trapped inside an emotional nightmare with unresolved death as a lonely companion? (Shawyer.1979).
Sexual mores? Oh, that might mean getting pregnant when you aren’t officially the property of one particular man. There’s a church voice in that… Is not being property still such a threat? To Sydney Anglicans? I dunno. I’m beyond trying to make anything lucid of this, at this point. Prolly best to have a beer and go cry myself to sleep. But at least someone else out there knows what this is like. At least I’m not alone.
adoption grief loss