Building Bridges of Understanding

I have given a great deal of thought to the complex emotions that an adoptee faces throughout life. The transformation that occurs as we become adults free to fully express previously suppressed feelings. What is it that we are trying to accomplish? I think first and foremost we do so in an attempt to find a truer sense of self. I also think we very much wish to be understood. Doesn’t everyone?

One of the bridges we seem to have the most difficulty building is the bridge of understanding between us and adoptive parents. Part of the problem of course is that we create this US and THEM mentality but I really don’t see a way around that when trying to convey a definitive level of understanding. In any case a great deal of emotion comes into play and whenever you are dealing with huge levels of emotion you run into people unwilling to really hear what you have to say, people who will protect themselves at any cost. Even if it means sacrificing the emotional well-being of their child. We all know adoptive parents who are shining examples of a better method of communication, I am obviously not speaking about them.

I want to share a letter written by fellow adoptee Julie Rist. My first thought after reading it was that it was going to cause adoptive parents a fair amount of anxiety. My second thought was that it is a far too important message to keep to ourselves regardless of it’s potential to hurt. We probably have to allow the hurt to some degree if we wish to heal the situation and build the bridge. I don’t know if it is humanly possible to truly understand what another is feeling but we have to keep trying. If we don’t we risk alienation from those we love most and on a more global level we risk the continuance of the adoption system as it stands. That is totally unacceptable. We have to keep trying to build those bridges for all of the adopted children to come.

Here is Julie’s note to be pinned onto adopted baby’s shirt:

To Whom It May Concern:

I miss and need my mother. It is no matter to me, the circumstances
that led to this day. I am not aware of them. I will not understand
them for many years to come – if ever. All I know is that my mother
has disappeared. Please show me empathy for this profound loss until
and unless I tell you I no longer need it.

Never forget that I spent the first months of my life with my mother
getting to know, intimately, her voice, her heartbeat, her taste, her
scent, her rhythms, her laughter, and so much more. She has been my
Universe since the day I was conceived. Because I am human, I was
designed to need and want the familiarity of these things upon
emergence from her womb to make me feel safe, to trust, and to feel a
part of the Family of Man.

Never forget I have lost these things. I have lost my Universe. I may
be your Universe now, but you are not mine now.

Despite your desire for a baby, please understand that, to me, you do
not smell right, sound right… feel right. Because of this,
understand that I am going to resist you. Understand that I will not
trust you, because I lost my nascent sense of trust when I lost my
mother. I will have to learn a different kind of trust, and that will
take a great deal of work on your part.

Also understand that I will carry the memory of my loss (though hidden
from my conscious memory) forever. My bones know it, my heart knows
it, my soul knows it. Whether you are honest with me or not, I will
always know it, so it would be wise not set up a scenario for my
feelings of your betrayal.

I was born with a given set of characteristics and personality. They
will not reflect those of your own family. I compel you to honor and
respect them. Do not try to mold me to your own; I will resent it
forever. If you truly care about my well-being you must perceive,
respect, and nurture the person I was born to be. You must also honor
and respect my own family – and my relationship to it.

If there is even one feeling or request that you find uncomfortable in
this notice, please return me forthwith to my mother. For all her
faults, she is still what I want and need most. I would rather live
with her in a cold-water flat with just a few rags of clothing than in
your 4-bedroom house with a fenced yard and nice dog.

Thank you.


<Signed with baby’s footprints>

Copyright © Julie A. Rist 2007

Julie also wrote a great article entitled Adopted Child *Waking Up* for Origins Canada, you can find it here. It’s about her transformation as an artist after her reunion.

While we are on the subject of bridges, Sume created the most amazing photograph of a bridge which accompanies a poignant essay on a similar subject to this one. An amazing read you shouldn’t miss.



Filed under Adoptee Family, Healing Through Art

69 responses to “Building Bridges of Understanding

  1. MARY

    Wow, Julie has a lot of anger within her. I suggest deep and long-term counseling. My brother was adopted by my father and he never felt abandoned. Later on when he met his birth father, the guy was a real jerk, so he was justified all along to feel love for the nurturing parent who had NOT abandoned them. Julie is portraying a glorified view of birth mothers and children. Children are resilient and can and do thrive in adoptive homes. To say they never do is ridiculous. And then children can shrivel up and die with birth mothers who should have never had children to begin with. And in fact, rape, incest, and sex at too young an age are realities through every generation since the history of man. I am sorry for Julie’s pain. It sounds as if the relationship with her adoptive parents is not good. That’s too bad, but that’s not to say she would have had a good relationship with her birth mother either. Relationships are tricky. Let me suggest she take to heart the expression: bloom where you are planted. And I hope she gets the help she needs to come to terms with her reality, that is, her mother, for whatever reason, could not parent her and gave her to others to do so. Life is a crap shoot – being adopted out or not being adopted out, all other things being equal, both run the same risk of turning out well, or not so well. All one can do is strive to be happy and make the best of life.

  2. suz

    Mia – Amazing, wonderful post. I love Julies letter. I find it truthful and honest and very real (and not angry or bitter). It is so sad that adoptive parents and others refuse to see this and find it so easy to attack, berate and invalidate the pain of others. I believe they show us how insecure they are in themselves when they do that.

    Thank you for sharing. I am going to share with others.

  3. Mia – thank you so much for this incredible post. I echo each sentiment that Suz so eloquently expressed.

    Mary, as a fellow adoptee, and adoptive parent myself, I feel compelled to respond to your post. In adoption, babies lose their mothers. In adoption, mothers lose their babies. I would argue there are no greater losses known to the human spirit. To assume or expect that one could be unaffected by such a tremendous loss and to deny the profound and permanent impact that adoption has on both an adoptee and his/her first parents is naive at best.

    Many adoptees (myself included) are thriving – we live productive, happy and fulfilling lives. We have the enormous capacity to love and be loved. My adoptive parents are incredible and supportive people whom I love very, very much. But that does not negate the losses incurred. Please never forget: In adoption, babies lose their mothers. And in adoption, mothers lose their babies.

    I implore you to please keep reading the stories of first moms and adoptees.

    Mia – – amazing post. I, too, will be sharing this with others.

  4. Just to clarify: When I wrote “fellow adoptee” – I was referring to Mia and Julie.

  5. I agree Suz.

    Mary you have missed the point completely. You also make many assumptions regarding the life of a woman you know nothing about. I urge you to educate yourself on the subject of adult adoptees so as not to do any real and permanent emotional damage to your brother or any other adoptees who may be unfortunate enough to cross your path. Maybe you should consider some deep and long-term counseling?
    Hurts doesn’t it? I wish you peace.

    Paula sadly it has been my experience that you cannot ask those who see no problem to be a part of the solution. You waste your breath. We can only focus our energy on those who truly wish to hear us with open hearts and open minds. xoxo

  6. rob

    Personally, I think that the idea of pinning this to a newborn’s shirt is absolutely disgusting.

    Not every adoptee feels this way, yet the idea is to put words into the mouth of a newborn way before the newborn has any concept of the loss.

    Newborns do not think of much else than whatever is newborn-ese for “Damn, I’m hungry!” or “Will someone please change my diaper?”

    To recognize this simple reality has nothing to do with not recognizing the extreme losses involved by natural mothers and adoptees.

    There are certainly some very relevant points in the letter, but its method, in my opinion, is ALL wrong.

  7. Rob I don’t think it is to be taken literally. I don’t think she is pushing to have adoption agencies make copies and buy a box of safety pins. Although I shouldn’t speak for her. ;o)

    As for the suggestion that a newborn feels no loss, I could certainly provide you with some compelling scientific evidence that would suggest otherwise. If you are interested let me know and I will send you some links.

    Have a great day and thanks for reading!

  8. Mary

    Mia, your words don’t hurt me. I am a bit sad that you unfortunately have misunderstood me, but that’s okay. I know this is a sensitive subject. FYI, my brother has suffered no long term damage or loss, and has been blessed by being raised by a man who wanted him rather than someone who did not. And contrary to what you think, I am not a threat to anyone. Saying such things to those who do not hold your point of view is silly and futile, and a bit immature.

    My point, again, is that adopted babies for the most part thrive with any parent. I agree with Rob. Babies need love and comfort, along with basic necessities. I accept that some adoptees may feel a loss when they learn about their origins, but that may be the fault of bad communication on the part of the adoptive parents. Life is short. One should not pine for what could never be and never was, but one should look forward, thank the Creator for life and for a supportive family, and move forward. And I assure you, living with your birth family is no assurance that you will not pine for a different life or suffer damage or loss. There are lots of kids out there, abused, neglected, damaged, who probably would have been better off with a different family.

  9. rob

    Hi Mia:

    Well, I understand the loss in the sense of hearing his mother for his full term in utero and hearing nothing but “foriegn-ness” upon adoption… and the transition period to try and gain trust (comfort?) for the adoptive parents, etc. I definitely get that.

    It is the articulation in this letter that has very little in common with the thoughts of a few day old baby that irks me. A 30 year old’s thoughts? Maybe. So, the letter concept would be so much more effective as: “Hi, I’m Julie. I was adopted. Here is my story.” THEN, the letter respects ALL members of the triad.

    I would really like to read the materials you have on the issue, so please email them to me.

    And. regarding the literalness, that might have been my reaction a few years ago; but after being a reader of the adoption blogosphere for awhile, I have been surprised numerous times to the contrary.

    Regards, and thanks for any info you can forward my way…

  10. And. regarding the literalness, that might have been my reaction a few years ago; but after being a reader of the adoption blogosphere for awhile, I have been surprised numerous times to the contrary.

    LOL Point taken Rob. I completely understand. As a matter of fact that’s sort of why I wrote maybe Julie should speak for herself because I paused for a moment thinking who knows, maybe she did mean it literally! lol Maybe she will come here and comment, give us her thoughts.

    If I were to have written this note I would have most likely left out the last paragraph completely. However, I stand by the concept of a childs loss needing to be recognized. I think the intent comes through quite well. The delivery may be forceful but sometimes that’s necessary. The bottom line is that this is Julie’s truth and I respect that 110%.

    I will gather some info. for you as soon as I can. Maybe you can let me know what you think.

  11. Kathryn

    This is sobering for adoptive parents to read, but gosh, it is gut wrenching for {birth} parents to read (the adoptive parents aren’t the ones at blame for the child’s grief; they are just the ones taking a child in because their mother won’t/can’t keep him/her). We are the ones giving our children up and causing this grief for them. If anything, the good that can come out of this is to make adoptive parents aware so that they can give their children the help and support that they need. It makes me as a birth mother hang my head in shame. Even though I believe my child DID get a better home and parents than what I could offer (hard to admit, but true), it still makes me very sad.

  12. reunionwritings

    It only occurred to me recently that the name Rob is another name for steal.

    Disturbing and moving post Mia.

  13. reunionwritings

    Mary seems very angry doesn’t she?

  14. That is a great letter Mia. Thanks for posting it.

  15. Mary,

    What a sadly poignant comment to leave after a plea for understanding.

    I am glad your brother is so happy, and of course assuming that he is only an adoptee-lite, would leave him free and clear of the attachment issues that children who are taken from their mothers have.

    I find it rather incredible that you can speak about your brother’s most inner most thoughts, I know if my brother attempted to speak for me he would be clumsy and akward at best. I try to remember that and not speak for other people, because in the attempt to do so, one can come across as arrogant and self-serving.

    As for belaboring the obvious, life is a crap shoot, there are good and bad situations, we do know this, being adopted does not make us obtuse thanks.

    I am sure your greeting-card aisle is well-intentioned, but a bit weak, “bloom where you are planted” we see that one too, and that is what Mia and Julie are doing, see Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs, they are self-actualizing.

    Julie doesn’t sound angry to me, Mary, you do, why do you want to pathologize other people? Why would you not want to accept that loss is indeed a NORMAL reaction to losing your parents?

    And Rob ,

    don’t get too worried, I don’t think anyone wants to pin that on an infant, that in fact it was a literary foil.


    Bigg hugs, your voice is huge and important, and should be validated not refuted, it’s YOURS.

  16. P.S.

    Left out the word Psychology in my answer,

    Greeting Card Aisle- Psychology,


  17. Mia…I think this is a great post. The more honest expression of adoptee’s inner feelings, the more understanding and intimacy there can be – not only between adoptees and those who adopt them, but the public in general. Just because some folks do not like the message, it in no way negates the feelings nor should it the expression of those feelings. Adoption is a mixed bag at best – definitely not the ideal.

  18. Kathryn

    I looked up Julie Rist and was fascinated to read some things about her. She considered herself to be a “happy adoptee” for the first 45 (!) years of her life and then started researching things more. I did find hope in the fact that her life was not doom and gloom for 45 years. How many of us can say that our life was very good for 45 years like hers was? My mother sucked. She let me abused by my stepfather. She let my self-esteem get so low that I didn’t think I could parent my own child. I wish I had been adopted. It might have saved me a lot of pain. My mother was not worth jack shit to me. That’s the thing with this; people assume that giving birth to a child results in a great and loving mom. I wish.

  19. Kathryn…I do not want to speak for adoptees, adoptive parents or the parents who gave (in many cases not so freely) their children up for adoption. However, the issue as I see it is one of loss; loss of identity, relationships with parents (I am not talking about quality of the relationship and I am sorry yours was a very bad one with your mother -and what your step-father did was criminal); relationships with siblings and extended family, history, roots and the like. Adoptees had no choice or voice in their adoption and in many cases reunion, if there is to be one.

    As much as one’s own family of orgin may or may not have been (in terms of emotional well being or wealth and the like), it is still your family. We know where we came from. They do not. That is a big difference.

    Anyone can say their family could have been better and I know many people who have said they wished they could have been adopted. I say be careful for what you wish for. The grass might appear greener on the other side of the fence but underneath the grass there could be a septic tank.

  20. Mary

    Kathryn, I am so sorry your birth mother was so unfit. I hope you find peace. There is a special place in hell for mothers who abuse their children, I believe. I am dismayed about comments above from those who believe that keeping a child with family just because they share DNA code is optimal. Abuse and neglect are more traumatic, life-altering, and psychologically damaging than a baby being with a parent that smells and sounds different.

  21. Kathryn said: That’s the thing with this; people assume that giving birth to a child results in a great and loving mom. I wish.

    Not sure where you get that idea?! Being adopted doesn’t necessarily equal being stupid.

    Again that story of The boy burned over 90% of his body- screaming for his mother- mother was the one who set him on fire-story comes to mind. I am getting frustrated that the whole POINT of this note is not being understood.

    We aren’t claiming to have gotten a lemon on the mommy trade in (although many did). What we are wanting is ACKNOWLEDGEMENT for the simple fact that A LOSS OCCURRED for us. We are asking……. no, BEGGING for people to quit pretending WE DIDN’T/DON’T FEEL LOSS. Ignorance would certainly be bliss here but unfortunately not many adoptees can claim ignorance.

    You wish you were adopted? Ugh. HUGE eye rolling going on here.

  22. Mary my comment above is for you too. You still miss the point completely. Let me try and put this into a simple analogy for you. If you were in a car accident and lost the use of your legs, would you wish to hear “well you should be grateful because you COULD be dead!” ? Of COURSE you would be grateful that you weren’t dead. Does that mean that you can’t acknowledge that the loss of your legs brings you a fair amount of sadness and pain? Of course it doesn’t.

  23. Mary

    Mia, don’t roll your eyes at Kathryn and say ugh. Her trauma from sexual abuse, and desire to have escaped that, is so much more real than your hypothetical one that babies who smell a different adult than their birth mother suffer some sort of lasting psychological damage. (Mary rolls eyes, grunts “ugh!”) However, that said, I can certainly accept your point, and LeRoy’s very-well made point, that there is a sense of loss from a lack of family history, and a sense of missing that wonderfully addictive feeling of “what might have been.”

  24. Mary….I didn’t get the impression from the comments people made that just because you have the same D.N.A. code that this should be the “optimal” living arrangement (although I could debate that with you in another forum). Kids have a right to know who their parents are; they have a right to safety; to have their needs met and yes, ideally by their parents and we, as a society, should encourage and support them with whatever means possible. What I did get from the commentors of this post was that adoptees experience a loss, as Mia states, and they want that acknowledged. I don’t think that is too much to ask for. In fact, I find it sad they should have to ask in the first place.

    For sure no one is saying children should grow up in abusive situations. What Kathryn’s mom and step-father did to her was criminal and inhuman. Unfortunately, family structure does not guarentee that a child will be safe and all their needs met. Yet research has shown that children raised by their bio-parents generally fare better than any other structure…and the voices of adoptees or those conceived by sperm donors should be heard. We have much to learn from them.

  25. Mary. I wasn’t rolling my eyes at Kathryn’s trauma AT ALL. What an idiotic assumption. You think the main point of all of this is us mourning what might have been?!!! I see you are still frightfully in the dark. I should have followed my own advice to Paula regarding people like you. I won’t delete your comments because they serve to prove the point of this post so well but do me a favor and move on. I am seriously done with your insults.

  26. Mary

    Mia said to Kathryn: “You wish you were adopted? Ugh. HUGE eye rolling going on here.”

    I am glad to hear you are done with insults. ‘Nuff said.

  27. Kathryn

    I’m sorry, Mia, I didn’t mean to offend you. {skulking away now}

  28. reunionwritings

    what bad karma have you accumulated to warrant these trolls on your blog??

    Marie and Rob/Steal are these the people that pimped that AWFUL video BEGGING for a baby ANY baby and sent it to mothers of loss?

    And now they come to an adoptee blog and HARRASS and adoptee?

    Mia, you can always use the delete button for these people, that’s all they deserve.

  29. Kathryn I fear you got the blunt end of my frustration with Mary. That’s MY fault for allowing her to get to me, not Mary’s. Again let me just say that I in no way was trying to make light of what you suffered at the hands of your irresponsible and abusive parents. There is no excuse for their behavior and you won’t see me giving them one. Let me clarify my eye rolling remark. Hearing someone say I wish I were adopted is just a button pusher for me. It implies that adoptees should count their lucky stars, be grateful. WHICH would be understandable except gratitude for what we were given is expected not as an accompaniment to our feelings of loss but as a replacement for our feelings of loss. That goes against every human instinct we have. It’s just not possible no matter how hard we may try.
    Kathryn you are WELCOME here. I am the one who is sorry if I did not present myself clearly.

  30. Maybe Kim being adopted automatically makes one aquire boatloads of bad karma. I mean after all it’s my fault that I just don’t clearly see that I have no right to feelings of loss. I guess I am only a big whiner who should just be grateful that I wasn’t aborted or stuffed into a dumpster to die. I should be grateful that my personal records are locked up like I were some sort of criminal. I mean what do I really need a history for anyway. My life began the day I was adopted, not the day I was born like everyone else.
    I don’t know how many times I have to be told “there WAS NO LOSS” before I finally get it.
    Rolling my eyes again.
    Thank you for being my friend even though I am not always totally grateful (as all good adoptees should be). xoxo

  31. Mia, Found your blog through Suz where she resposted this letter. Wow. Thank you for posting it. Maybe if Julie’s letter gets spread far and wide enough, people will begin to think beyond their naive beliefs, and accept that babies feel loss when they are no longer with their mother. I only really grasped the connection mothers have with their babies in the womb when I needed to only speak softly to my newborn son for him to calm. (More than one kind and gentle female nurse had held him without result.)
    It disturbs me how many people want to speak on the issues of what an adoptee they (think they) know feels. We can never really know how someone else feels…it’s silly to think we do. In my opinion, what we adoptees acutally think and feel and choose to share, trumps that any day. Likewise, I won’t presume to say how a firstmom or adoptive mother feels, I’ll reserve that for them.
    As for blooming where we are planted…that comment just blows my mind. You can’t grow citrus trees in Alaska just because you want to. That seed is designed to grow in a specific soil and conditions. I have been blessed with fantastic adoptive parents and a wonderful first mom so I did well. However, we MUST as a society, realize that it is not so simple as mind over matter, suck it up, bloom where you are planted, blah blah blah when your heart knows you came from somewhere…someone…else. Thanks for blogging so bravely. I’ll be back. Hugs, Rebecca

  32. rob

    For the record, this is the same rob who created the YouTube video. I do not know who Mary is… it is not my wife.

    So, KimKim… get a grip (once again) and allow me my ability to learn from the adoption experience of others.

    I hardly did anything to “harrass” with my comments.

  33. Christine

    Mia, I’ve read your blog only for a few weeks now, and this one really made me think. I think the title, “Building Bridges of Understanding” defines the spirit in which this post should be read. As a new adoptive mother, I know there is no one in my life who would talk to me about these things so honestly. I truly view blogs like this as a gift – a way for me to see into a world that I otherwise have no access to.
    Certainly some of the messages are difficult for me to read, but if I don’t try, with an open heart and mind, to understand what adoptees (and birth mothers for that matter) think and feel, I’m doing a huge injustice to my son.
    When we adopted, I did not expect parenting to be easy, but I was also not conscious of what adoptees and birth mothers experience. We needs blogs like this. I need blogs like this to be the best possible parent to my child – and he deserves no less.
    Thank you for posting something so obviously controversial. It does reach people who need to hear it.

  34. Mia-
    Thank you for your post and for sharing Julie’s note – it captures the essence of how I have felt all my life. Nobody speaks for the little baby and then when we do find our voice we are somehow to blame for our feelings. I’ve never understood how a person can criticize another for expressing their hurt. It’s a shame people are so lacking in empathy. Yes, Mia, we all wish to be understood – we are human afterall.

  35. Christine you have no idea how much I needed to hear that specific message today. THANK YOU so much.

    …and to everyone who comes here with open hearts and open minds thank you too.

  36. suz

    mia – sorry about the trolls you have gotten hit by. dont allow it. you dont deserve it. ban them or tell them to GYOFB (get your own F#$kin blog). i love your stuff, your voice, your thoughts.

  37. I know the “I wish I WAS adopted” line gets me too, it buys into the myth that on the basis of adoption you will have non-abusive parents.

    Not true.

    I think what people really mean when they say that is I wish my parents had been strong, capable and loving.

    Which I can fully understand, I just wish they wouldn’t minimize my experience to express their valid desire for a protected childhood.

  38. What a ride today Mia…I feel like we (all who have participated on your blog in this post) have been on an emotional roller coaster. If only we could all stand in a circle for a group hug 🙂 Thanks for letting everyone share on your blog their feelings on this subject even though it invoked strong reactions.

  39. Mary said: “I am dismayed about comments above from those who believe that keeping a child with family just because they share DNA code is optimal. Abuse and neglect are more traumatic, life-altering, and psychologically damaging than a baby being with a parent that smells and sounds different.”

    I’m confused about this statement and correct me if I’m wrong, but Mary, you seem to insinuate that all adoptees would have been abused and neglected by their original families had they been kept. That’s absurd – many of us had/have wonderful first families who, for no other reason then lack of support at the time, felt they had no other alternative but to relinquish.

  40. Rob said: “So, KimKim… get a grip (once again) and allow me my ability to learn from the adoption experience of others.”

    You want to come here and learn and yet your first comment states that the idea of the letter is disgusting? What attempt are you honestly making towards learning by stating that?

  41. rob


    You misread my comment entirely. The idea of pinning it to a newborn is disgusting. I stand by that comment.

  42. Rob perhaps if you elaborate on why you find that aspect of the letter so disturbing it would help us understand where you’re coming from. The word disgusting is strong and could definately use some clarification.
    If I understood you correctly you said you find the idea of a baby formulating these particular thoughts to be disrespectful to some members of the triad but that certainly wouldn’t equal disgust. Unless of course you thought it was severly damaging to one particular group of the triad. If that’s the case I would be curious to know which group that might be and why?
    Clarification would be helpful and appreciated. I think coming to a place of mutual respect and understanding could be really helpful in building that bridge so I just wish to understand.

  43. rob

    Hi Mia:

    First, I don’t find the letter, itself, “disgusting.” I find it dishonest.

    I don’t find the feelings from the letter disturbing. They are very real. I wasn’t adopted. These feelings are the similar feelings that I have seen spoken by many adoptees online (very rarely in person, which certainly reveals the power and value of this medium), so there MUST be truth in them.

    What I don’t like is the manner in which the message is conveyed. It, on its face, appears dishonest in the sense that not every adoptee is going to feel this way. This particular person, Julie, feels this way.

    So, why not just write it in HER person, as opposed to some fictional account of every adopted newborn?

    What if an adoptee who does not have these feelings suggested writing a letter in the same manner (with a tongue-in-cheek comment that it should be pinned on every newborn whose mothers are considering adoption) that spoke only of the positive aspects of adoption?

    I can just FEEL the uproar from the adoption blogosphere.

    Then, there is the “return me to my mother” comment at the end. The reality, in this scenario, is that the child has been given up by that mother, so — to me — it feels like a “cheap shot” because the comment is coming from a newborn, as presented.

    Finally, and probably most importantly to me, I feel that this kind of document should be directed at natural mothers.

    Adoptive parents don’t experience the level of loss that occurs from a completed adoption as do the natural mother and the adoptee. It is a moment of happiness, primarily, for the adoptive parents.

    Where I hope we all agree: More needs to be done to allow natural mothers to fully comprehend their decision and to protect them from coercion. Nobody can deny that the BEST scenario in all cases is for a child to be with his/her natural parents.

    I would like to see Julie write a letter to mothers considering adoption with “Hi, I am Julie. I was adopted. I experienced unfathomable pain as a result of my mother giving me up for adoption. Please listen to these words of my feelings as I grew up and the feelings that I have now as an adult before you make a final decision.”

    Certainly, I agree that there is value in informing the adoptive parents about the adoptee’s and natural mother’s feelings of loss. And, for all the negativity that I have personally experienced in the adoption blogosphere of late, it has proved its weight in gold in awakening me and my wife to the “hidden secrets” of adoption.

    But, when we stop and think about the obvious, there is no adoption if the natural mother does not sign the paperwork. Meaning: the emphasis of this letter, in my view, is misplaced and (to me) hurtful.

  44. rob

    Sorry for the long response, Mia.

    I wanted to add that when I say “Certainly, I agree that there is valye in informing the adoptive parents of. . . loss,” I should have said SUBSTANTIAL value (without the added word, it reads like I consider this just casually and, sort of, as a “maybe” or voluntary choice of adoptive parents, which I do not).

  45. There is no need to apologise Rob. It takes as long as it takes. I appreciate your sincere reply very much. I think it deserves some thought before responding so I’m going to sit with it a while and then I can be assured my reply isn’t off the cuff but equally thoughtful. Check back OK?

    I will say I greatly appreciate your care in trying to use respectful (toward all involved) phrasing this time around. I failed at that myself a couple of times today and I don’t think it serves any real purpose toward the ultimate goal of creating needed change in the world of adoption. I honestly believe that if we don’t figure out how to talk to one another that change isn’t ever going to take place. That’s unacceptable and something I think everyone can agree on. Except maybe Mary.
    LOL…… I couldn’t resist.

  46. Mia,

    Wow, I just got a note to visit this post again. I am sorry for not being here sooner to help out. I will forever not understand how people can dismiss adoptees and their families. It is bad enough that adoption agencies and their lobbists consider us property. It is bad enough that the state legislatures would rather listen to those very adoption agencies about the facts about us. My question to those you dissent against us ~ are you an active participant of adoption? Probably not. Please do not presume to answer for us. What you know currently has been feed to you by these agencies. Listen to what the first mothers say, listen to the adoptive parents say who truly try and do understand, and finally listen to us. That letter that Julie wrote is a very deep gut reaction. Many of us feel it at different times and different ways in our lives. We are a combination of nurture and nature. What we are trying to understand is the nature part of ourselves. What we want is that nature to actually acknowledged. Why is okay for you to want true kinship for yourselves but it is not okay for us not to want it for ourselves?

  47. Julie

    I am the author of the letter “To Whom It May Concern.”

    Although I would like to reply to some comments specifically, I will have to be more general – at least for the moment – as I have just had surgery on my right hand and can’t really type. lol

    This letter does not come from my own personal experience. It comes from many years of research on prenatal, perinatal, and child psychology & development.

    It is based on the findings of those parts of such research which specifically deal with separation at birth. This research includes ALL separation – not just from adoption, but also from the death of the mother in childbirth, from kidnapping, from incubation (preemies), and even in daycare and nanny situations.

    The conclusions continue to be proven repeatedly through ongoing research. This is how babies feel when they are separated from their mothers at birth – whatever the reason.

    I do not believe I implied that the baby would be better off with its mother – merely that the BABY feels this way. My personal feelings do not enter into this. Nevertheless, since some of you seem to have inferred this from the letter, I would like to share an excerpt from Judith Viorst’s book, “Necessary Losses” to help you understand the child’s viewpoint:

    “A young boy lies in a hospital bed. He is frightened and in pain. Burns cover 40 percent of his small body. Someone has doused him with alcohol and then, unimaginably, has set him on fire.

    “He cries for his mother.

    “His mother has set him on fire.

    “It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of mother a child has lost, or how perilous it may be to dwell in her presence. It doesn’t matter whether she hurts or hugs. Separation from mother is worse than being in her arms when the bombs are exploding. Separation from mother is sometimes worse than being with her when she is the bomb.”

    I recommend Viorst. I also recommend Verny’s “The Secret Life of the Unborn Child” and Chamberlain’s “The Mind of Your Newborn Baby,” among many, many others. And never forget Alice Miller. Alice Miller is brilliant.

    It seems to me that anyone who is empathetic on the behalf of infants and children would welcome any and all information they can gather so they can be the best possible guides on their children’s journey into adulthood.

    Assumptions are dangerous things. I see a lot of comments here which assume things about me that are completely incorrect.

    But even more dangerous is blind acceptance of popular opinion when it is harmful to a large portion of our greatest natural resource: our children.

    My “Waking Up” article is a completely different matter, and in fact is not an article but an excerpt from my personal journal. “To Whom It May Concern” is non-partisan, and I ask that you go back and try to read it as such.

    Regarding the debate about my intentions, the concept of pinning the note to an adoptive baby’s shirt is a metaphor for my hope that every adult even remotely connected to adoption would be educated regarding the very real repercussions of separation. Most people dismiss it out of hand. And why, I wonder? Those same people will give all the sympathy, empathy, and understanding in the world to a child who has lost its mother in childbirth or to a child who has been kidnapped. It just doesn’t square.

  48. Thank you very much Julie for your explaination and that is how I took the note pinned on the baby – as a metaphor. I am not quite sure what to call the instinct a child has to be home with their parents no matter the circumstances. I have been involved in numerous cases where children we abused/neglected, their parents’ parental rights were terminated, and the children were placed for adoption. Yet every case I know of, the child headed “home” when they were adults just like a dog or pigeon will find its way back to where (or who) it came. Folks can call it magical or some kind of syndrome playing out but I think it runs deeper. It is something very innately wired into us to be connected – dare I say that it could be a spiritual connection as well as a physical one?

    Thanks again for your insight and research in this area Julie. Much appreciated! Hope your hand heals quickly and completely.

  49. Let me add my two cents here. While I agree with the content of the statement I can see the harshness or bluntness of it as well. The points made are valid. Infants do have memories. As adults we create a hierarchy of awareness with cognitive awareness held in a highier regard than emotional awareness. Traditionally our society has assumed wrongly that infants who are not cognitively developed have no or minimal awareness of their separation as if they were under some sort of anesthetic. We know today that infants brains are emotionally developed at birth and can process affects. Memories are not linear, they are organized in direct proportion to the emotion created by the event that causes them. Separation from the bonded first mother is just such an event to create a powerfull implicit affective memory. We therefore feel it we dont know it even as adults. Many of us will repress it. Im not saying it rises to the level of a trauma but in some it can. It can manifest itself as a narcissistic wound in others or be minmally experienced. We know from the research of (Robertson and Bowlby 1952) that infants taken from their mothers experience shock, distress, grief, and repression. This is a normal reaction. Any infant that experiences no affective reaction to separation would thefore be abnormal. The point made is that infants remember the experience of their separation and thats a valid point. Some choose not to and thats their right.

  50. I would change the last paragraph to
    If there is even one feeling or request you find uncomfortable in this notice, please discuss it with the social worker so you can gain insight regarding the adoption/separation process and learn to respect and validate my emotions. I understand you as adopting parents have fears, shame and loss yourselves but you are the adults and I am the baby. I need you to act without fear and respond to my needs first. I arrive in your home a state of grief and I do not recognize you as my mother. Mothers you see are not simply interchangable.

  51. Julie


    That would work if we assume that the adoptive parents were capable of learning these facts and acting upon them. However, there are many who are not. Please don’t tell me that you have never heard PAPs talking about this very information, calling it nonsense, and obviously having no intention of acting on it.

    If we have a case as stated above, I would hope the baby’s mother would (upon baby’s return) then have the option of choosing a more suitable adoptive home.

    Please see my earlier comment. I reiterate that this is from the perspective of the baby – her/his feeling, needs, and wants – not a cognitive being who is aware of SWs, counselors, etc. Put yourself in the baby’s booties.


    and now there are 52 comments here.

  53. Yikes, Mia. As your “sibling of circumstance” (Robert’s term, which I like and borrow here), I enjoyed reading Julie’s note. What I still don’t get and perhaps never will is the need of some non-adopted persons to pathologize, minimize and sometimes to try to control or correct what we say. And the whole “bloom where you are planted” business? Yeah, many of us bloom all right, but it takes a life time of extra weeding. To me, it’s another way of saying, “Shush and quit your whining.” It’s patronizing at best.

  54. Julie
    January 20th, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    That would work if we assume that the adoptive parents were capable of learning these facts and acting upon them. However, there are many who are not. Please don’t tell me that you have never heard PAPs talking about this very information, calling it nonsense, and obviously having no intention of acting on it.

    If we have a case as stated above, I would hope the baby’s mother would (upon baby’s return) then have the option of choosing a more suitable adoptive home.

    Please see my earlier comment. I reiterate that this is from the perspective of the baby – her/his feeling, needs, and wants – not a cognitive being who is aware of SWs, counselors, etc. Put yourself in the baby’s booties.
    =================================== I am adopted so I am in the booties. Actually I didnt wear booties I wore Sears baby work shoes with steel toes. The statement is from your perspective projected on the baby. Babys cant think(know)they only feel. You are expressing your thoughts through the babys and thats right. Perhaps you might put yourself in the booties of an adopting mother as well as the baby’s. Mothers and babys adopte one another. Thats what adoption is supposed to be. I do know that the result of adoption is not always a transfered attachment. Its also an incomplete attachment or a failure to attach. I do get it but I see all sides here.

  55. Julie


  56. joy

    Excellent piece Julie, perfect as is, keep up the good work

    And hearty Yes to Nina

  57. Julie


    You *were* in the booties as an infant. You were not able to voice your feelings then. I hope you have shed the booties. 🙂


    The statement is from the baby’s perspective. Feelings, as well as thoughts, can be expressed in words . I am expressing the baby’s feelings (not thoughts) using words s/he does not yet have.


    If I put myself in her booties, I would learn how to live child-free and help children in other ways, such as helping young mothers to mother their own children rather than helping myself to their babies.


    Babies do not adopt, nor do mothers. Only strangers and kin adopt babies.


    I think you are confusing ‘bonding’ with ‘attachment.’ Attachments can be transferred; bonding cannot. Babies bond only with their natural mother – all other relationships are attachments, including the relationship with their father.


    I think you want to see all sides. Moreover, I think you very much want to be sympathetic to all sides and kudos to you for trying, but I suggest you consider the possibility that adoption will never be an equilateral triangle – aka “triad” – despite your desire to make it so.

  58. Julie

    My thanks to Mia, Joy, Joy21, Rebecca, Suz, Amy, Dory, LeRoy, Paula O., Elizabeth, (((Kathryn))), reunionwritings, and especially Christine for your honest feedback and support.

  59. Wow. What an interesting comments section. Mia, I am very sorry that you were attacked (and you were attacked no matter how they try to dress it up). I know it is hurtful and upsetting. Your point is heard by many and that is what matters. Some people are not ready to “hear” this information because they just aren’t there yet. I wasn’t there yet several years ago and I am an adoptee who has thought a lot about adoption issues. Many will get there and some will never get there. ((((HUGS))))

  60. Mia, I’ve been away but I’m just catching up. Just wanted you to know (still) that we exist, these aparents who want to understand (even if we can’t feel it ourselves) that we value the losses Julie has written about so eloquently. Too often it’s about aparent sensitivity/offense and not enough about trying to imagine our child with a voice she doesn’t have yet. Thanks Julie and Mia and her sisters and brothers for giving us that voice in the meantime.

  61. Abebech you’re awesome I tell ya’, just AWESOME!

    Note to all: I responded to this comment section in my new post. This was getting a little long and ideas were getting lost.

  62. Mia, I’ve linked to this and copied an excerpt on SofA. Miss you my friend. :love: :love: :love:

    Julie, you can speak for me anytime. Well done.


  63. Geez, Mia. Throw a party and don’t even send me an invitation! I’m going to go find something to pee on now. 😉

  64. SAPPH!!!!! My FRIEND!!!!! I miss you too! xoxo

    ATM you know you have a standing invitation to ALL my parties you silly girl. Just don’t pee on the rug.

  65. This was beautiful. Very difficult to read, as a firstmom, but SO important.

    Thank you, Julie, for writing it, and thank you, Mia, for posting it.


  66. Thank you Julie for giving us some insight into adoption from the perspective of the baby and the older adoptee.

    It’s rare that a pregnant woman – or her parents – are fully informed about the true risks of separating mothers and babies. What a tragedy when middle class parents who forced their daughter to give up their grandbaby learn the truth about adoption too late.

    Hospitals today try to keep moms and babies together to prevent the harm that comes from separating them.

  67. Pingback: Mama Mia | Writing My Wrongs

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