Blog: # Find My Family & my experience w/the adoptive parents of my son

Posted on May 29, 2010. Filed under: Adoption emotions, Book Reviews, Eli & me, My Adoption Story, TV & Film reviews of Adoption stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I wrote this in November just before the new reality show, Find My Family, came on the air.

By Joy A. Kennelly

Seeing as this IS my personal blog, although I’ve been putting more of my professional and political stuff on here for higher visibility, I feel like getting personal seeing as the new reality show, Find My Family, is airing tonight for the first time after Dancing with the Stars.

Also, since I haven’t been allowed to speak to my son ever since the adoptive parents dropped an emotional bombshell about Eli’s feelings about his birth father on me in a recent conversation and are most likely reacting out of fear, I need to share what I’m going through as a birthmother because I know many adoptive parents are clueless as to how their actions deeply, deeply, deeply affect those of us in open adoptions that they choose not to honor.

I wasn’t planning to, but after going through Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People training today, I just feel compelled to be honest with what I’m experiencing in my open adoption in hopes it will help a reader who needs to hear my story – even if nothing positive happens in my own personal situation.

(For the record, my friend, Adoption Psychologist/Author, Marlou Russell, explained to me is that “it is natural for adoptees to be angry at a birth parent and show those feelings. Sometimes it is about the adoption, sometimes it is about something else.” I believe it was something else, but that’s neither here nor there. I’ve been on adoption panels with her and attended her adoption seminars which I highly, highly recommend. I completely trust her insights and perspective since she’s also an adoptee and has lived what she counsels.)

I just want adoptees to be aware that many times it’s not their birth parents who don’t want to speak or spend time with them, it’s the adoptive parents who shut off the relationship because of their own issues. But I’m sure many adoptees already know that and have guilt feelings for even wanting a relationship with their biological parents.

To be fair, I’m sure there are great adoptive parents too. I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful open adoptions too. But to be real, there are many that aren’t. We just don’t hear about those as much unless it’s some drastic ripping of a child from an adoptive parent by a birth parent which is generally very rare.

That’s why I think tonight’s Find My Family show is going to strike a real emotional chord for many people in the adoption triad – adoptee, adoptive parents, and birth parents. And those who have lost touch with loved ones and relatives. (For a laugh, read people’s comments though.:))

I placed my son in an adoption ten years ago with the understanding it would be open, not closed, as the adoptive parents erroneously, wrongly and falsely are choosing to do right now and frequently have tried to do in the past. I even had to bring in an adoption counselor to validate my claims my involvement in his life helps, doesn’t hurt Eli and his self-esteem.

Christmas travels to see the Houghs,  the Coxs, Amy T, & Glori 056 However, since that last counseling appointment was back when he was three, apparently they’ve forgotten. What’s so difficult is I’m not the only birthmother to experience this heartache over an adoption.

I distinctly remember one birthmother I spoke to years ago who was told by the potential adoptive parents she would have an open adoption only to find as soon as she signed over her rights, the parents disappeared with her child never to be heard from again.

I’m sure there are many other horror stories, but you don’t hear about them because the adoptive parents are so much more in the forefront of this issue and are more visible.

I also remember listening to a couple who were considering adopting saying they wanted a foreign baby because then they would never have to deal with the birth parents. It cut me to the quick to hear that. To think that birthparents could be discarded so easily and callously as long as the adoptive parents got what they wanted – a healthy baby – was rather shocking.

What are we? Surrogates? Non-entities? Just a uterus? I don’t get it. Never have, never will. I am a woman who gave birth to your child at great sacrifice. I have to turn over my feelings to God about this on almost a daily basis when I’m in the midst of the adoptive parent’s painful actions. Sometimes it’s easier than others.

Today, I’m ok. A few weekends ago? Not so much.

I know I should have heard the adoptive father when he said he wanted to write a book about adoption and the last page of the book would be the child being told they would meet their birth parent when they were older.

However, when you’re pregnant, it’s a week before your child is to be born and then adopted by that very person and you were promised an open adoption, you have a tendency to believe that person will honor their word and has the same concept of open adoption as you do.

Not true.

The adoptive parents had one month to prepare for our adoption whereas I had six months to research, read books on adoption and undergo intensive counseling to better understand my decision and what open adoption would mean to me which I assumed they understood as well.

Apparently their attorney’s version of an open adoption is drastically different than my version – in fact, it’s more closed than open to be honest. No pictures, very little contact, etc, etc, etc. Back when I did my open adoption there weren’t any laws in place to protect birthmothers from these type of wrong actions, although the law has changed apparently.

Of course, one year after my personal open adoption leaving me with no legal recourse, but I knew that going in and accepted my fate trusting the parents to be honest and fair feeling they would have Eli’s best interests at heart above their own insecurities and fears.

Another of my good friends who worked with an adoption agency and has always been very supportive of me and what I go through in this adoption, once I told her what’s been going on lately, said this is just another example of why an agency adoption is superior to an attorney adoption since potential parents must undergo counseling when with an agency.

She said she can’t believe the amount of adoptive parents who live under the fear the birthparents are going to come in and take their child back. I personally don’t get that since I gave birth and voluntarily chose to abdicate my rights to this child (with the understanding we would be able to stay in touch because I never wanted my son to doubt my choosing adoption out of love, or my love for him.)

I honor my commitments and my word. I don’t know any other way. That’s why this betrayal by the adoptive parents hurts so deeply. I assumed they would do the same and I’ve been proven wrong over and over again. Living with this back-and-forth for ten years is wearing on a person which is why I’m choosing to speak out now.

Not to say there haven’t been good times, but there’s always a feeling of obligation, not happiness over this relationship I have with their child despite his love for me and desire to have me in his life. What’s that saying about doing the same thing and expecting different responses? Insanity.

I finally snapped recently and called them sobbing about my feelings over everything which of course, they have chosen to ignore since that’s how they handle everything they don’t know what to do with. Everything’s fine, just pretend everything’s fine, ignore it, smiles, and everything will be fine. Nothing’s wrong.

Well, it is.

There are times I want to just walk away and forget this heartache completely, but then I remember I’m not staying involved for the adoptive parents. I’m doing it for the mental health of my son – to give him confidence that I love him (no matter how much these people hurt me to do this by withholding gifts I send him until he asks why I’m not contacting him and then they finally give to him months afterward to appease him; refusing to allow me to speak to him despite numerous calls to catch them when they might be available and their promises to return my calls when I have brought it up with them in the past which they break over and over again; refusing to allow me to see him when I’m traveling close due to the Inauguration until the last minute when it’s not possible due to the crowds, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc)

I’m writing about this now because the anger is gone. All I have is resignation. That, and hope that the birth father will be able to get through to them the need for us all to be in touch with Eli as he grows, develops and deals with his adoption. It’s what is best for him no matter how much they want to deny it.

After ten years of no communication with the birthfather (who is now happily married with a child of his own) through a mutual friend, he contacted me via email after hearing about Eli’s pride in his Nigerian heritage, his pride in being adopted, and Eli’s anger at him because he didn’t think he cared since this man has never reached out before.

After getting over my initial shock, I wrote back and explained what I’ve dealt with for the entire ten years of this adoption and wished him well in reaching out to the adoptive parents. Who knows? Maybe it’s time for Eli to have a relationship with his biological father and maybe it’s time for the adoptive parent to work through their own personal issues surrounding this adoption through counseling.

I’m just tired of being among the silent majority in an adoption and pretending like nothing’s wrong in this adoptive relationship because it’s false. There are issues inherent in any relationship you have in your life. It’s just more difficult when you’re negotiating for a chance to love the child you naturally love and know loves you back.

It really shouldn’t be this difficult. Especially when the parents proclaim to love God and live a Christian life which is one of the reasons I selected them out of all the people I could have chosen. It just doesn’t make sense. Where’s their integrity in all this?

What was interesting is that this past Sunday when I went to request prayer for this whole situation I ironically had a pastor pray for me who is also an adoptive parent – he knew immediately what I was going through and prayed for the parents to remember I John 4:18,

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

I have real peace over everything right now. Have to admit, this heartache over what’s going on has been why I haven’t been writing very much lately. I needed to make sure that when I did there was no anger, just facts. I also didn’t want to write about it, but for some reason felt compelled once I heard about the Find My Family show.

I hope you understand my adoption a little better now as a result of my sharing too. I hope if the adoptive parents read this they will hear me too. One can dream…

I will leave you with this funny story because it hasn’t been all doom and gloom.

Immediately after my adoption, I flew to NC for a vacation with a friend and used the time to pitch myself to work in NYC with a PR firm. I found a freelance consulting gig rather quickly, flew up there and soon rented a place to stay with a young girl from a friend’s church.

I’ll never forget shopping the streets of New York with her, sharing about my open adoption and her funny response. She was so naive she asked me, “Well, when do you get him back?” She figured since it was an open adoption I would get him back when I was back on my feet, or whenever I wanted.

I had to laugh and explain it’s permanent. I chose this family to raise my son for me since it wasn’t the right time for me to be a parent.

I believed that then. I believe it now.

No matter how poorly they treat me and no matter how much they don’t want to believe I would NEVER ever try to take Eli back, I would never do that. I just wouldn’t. I committed to this situation and will remain committed to the very end… no matter the cost to me personally.

And despite being one of the heaviest emotional, spiritual, physical and professional costs I have ever lived through. I lived through it!

And I keep my word. I haven’t wanted to write about this, but felt the need to set the record straight and to share a birthmother’s perspective since our side is usually ignored in adoption stories and the media.

For those of you considering open adoption, in an open adoption, or dealing with issues from an open adoption, again, a little advice from my good friend/Adoption Counselor/Author Marlou Russell: “A good book to read is Lois Melina and Sharon Kaplan Roszia’s [The] Open Adoption [Experience: A Complete Guide for Adoptive and Birth Families.] Photo1
They cover many issues. Sharon has an office in Santa Ana – The Kinship Center that has groups and individual counseling and deals with these issues all the time.”

And that’s all. I want to write a fun blog next. Just felt like sharing in hopes this will give you a better understanding of adoption and birthparents.

Or at least me.

We are not the enemy.


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2 Responses to “Blog: # Find My Family & my experience w/the adoptive parents of my son”

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Sigh. I hate hearing stories like this. We’re in an open adoption (as adoptive parents) and are totally committed to it for all of us. It’s much harder than I thought it would be actually. But in my view that does not change anything. Life is hard. Birth is complex. The emotional end is more intense that I could ever have predicted. But our child deserves to know where he came from and what shaped him biologically and culturally. I have a post in my brain that underlines that ALL adoptees have birthmothers (and fathers) whether known or not. And those women and men are very very important to their children. I feel that our child’s birthparents are important to ME as well. Anyway – thanks for putting it out there.

Theo is quite the cutie! Thanks for taking the time to let me know you understand. I really appreciate your kind comments. I’m moving forward with my life and trust when my son’s old enough he’ll want to develop a relationship then. I’m just not as emotionally involved any more waiting since it’s too painful.

The adoptive parents will answer to God for their actions. Not me. Thanks again for dropping a line.

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    Emotions I feel surrounding my adoption, books I read and other experiences in life


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