Flipping the Script and Losing Friends

birth-certificate

The meltdown started with this blog post: When Adoption Makes You A Liar, which is funny, because it’s tame compared to other things I’ve written. I even considered not publishing it for that reason. Because I thought it was so obvious that no one would think twice about it.

Well I was wrong.

A friend (I’ll call her “A”) shared it on Facebook. Then a mutual friend, (who I’ll call “B”), commented:


(B) Interestingly, We applied for a passport for our adopted daughter yesterday. Nowhere in the process were the words “blood” or “biological” or “real” involved. We showed her birth certificate, which says I am her mother, does not say I gave birth to her, and her adoption decree. I’m sorry some people feel we lied. We didn’t. It was one trip, took 20 minutes. Really easy. 

I’m sorry, I vowed not to engage in this anti-adoption stuff anymore. But this really struck me.


I didn’t see this until friend A tagged me:

(A) I’m not an adoptee or an adoptive parent, so I don’t have the perspective that either Elle or you do, but even without explicitly using the words, a mother’s name on a birth certificate does indeed say that she gave birth to the child. That’s the whole point. That’s why I’ve never understood altered birth certificates.


Background information: Both A and B know me well, both online and IRL, but of the two, it is B who should know me better, because besides an apx ten year online friendship, we have talked at length on the phone, and met in person numerous times, including in her home – even our young adult kids know each other. We have confided in each other as women are oft to do, and I considered her a friend.

When she first started fostering a baby girl, I wholeheartedly supported it. The baby couldn’t wait for her mother or other bio family members to get their act together. She needed care – including daily medical care – now. B and her husband were able and willing to do that. They were and are, in my opinion, excellent parents.

She asked me privately, when the question arose, if I thought they should adopt her. I said yes, because the child needed the stability they could provide and the birth mom could not. This was a case where the birth mom was not going to “get better” enough to parent her own child. As sad as that was, at least her daughter would have one set of parents in her memory, rather than a series of foster homes or back-and-forth between them.

B asked me a lot of questions, because, to paraphrase, “You’re the only adoptee I know.” I was happy to be asked. We chatted about it several times. I was always pro-adoption with the caveat that her daughter will need the truth (in age-appropriate terms), and that the adoption would obviously be open, because both sides already knew each other. She replied that it was suggested to “make it a closed adoption” and if the birth mom tried anything, get a no-contact order. I hoped she was only telling me this so I knew the opposing side, not that this is what she was leaning toward.

When I first started blogging about adoption, a mutual friend shared one of my posts and B took offence. She was informed it was me, and to clear things up, I wrote Where I’m Coming From. I stupidly thought that would be the end of the misunderstandings. While I continued to “like” status updates on her Facebook page, she was noticeably absent from mine. Facebook messages became very rare. The phone calls stopped. This was also around the same time they were moving forward with the adoption.

Then this Facebook exchange happened. Here is the entire thing:

When Adoption Makes You A Liar

(B) Interestingly, We applied for a passport for our adopted daughter yesterday. Nowhere in the process were the words “blood” or “biological” or “real” involved. We showed her birth certificate, which says I am her mother, does not say I gave birth to her, and her adoption decree. I’m sorry some people feel we lied. We didn’t. It was one trip, took 20 minutes. Really easy. 

I’m sorry, I vowed not to engage in this anti- adoption stuff anymore. But this really struck me.

  • (me) This isn’t “anti-adoption.” It’s “pro-truth in adoption”.
  • (B) Well, Elle. Perhaps my feeling of being accused is in my own mind. What more truthful thing would you have me do?
  • (B) Everything of yours, under your nom de plume, feels very anti-adoption to me. Very, “here is my complaint” And no, “Here is how it can be better.”
  • (me) I am also unsure why you are on the defensive.
  • (me) I am very upfront on how it can be better. Complete disclosure. No secrets. No sealed records. Access to OBCs by adult adoptees.
  • (me) If I did not speak openly about how I feel, then I would not be truthful. If we cannot be truthful, there will be no change.
  • (B) yea, I shouldn’t have even read it or responded. I don’t think you are attacking me, but everyone who adopts. You say you aren’t anti adoption, but that is not how it looks to me. 
    Most current adoptions are totally open. Things are getting better for those adopted in previous decades.
  • (me) B, I think your feelings about what I write say more about you than it does about me, or adoption.
  • (B) OK< ciao.

(A) I’m not an adoptee or an adoptive parent, so I don’t have the perspective that either Elle or you do, but even without explicitly using the words, a mother’s name on a birth certificate does indeed say that she gave birth to the child. That’s the whole point. That’s why I’ve never understood altered birth certificates.

(me) And there we have it, folks. This is what adoptees deal with, every day. Speak your truth = Be misunderstood. I know B in real life. She’s a great mom. She has no real reason to feel threatened by me other than the fact she has an adopted child. So if I, as an adopted daughter, do not follow the Grateful Adoptee script, I am “anti-adoption” and therefore a threat to her very motherhood, I guess. That is not true, B. I admire you greatly. I hope you see that someday.

  • (B) Ha! I do not expect you to be grateful. You say you want honesty but you don’t even use your own name. 
  • (B) My problem is that you use the word adoption in a sweeping way, never acknowledging that things have changed. 
  • (B) Something horrible happened to you, and to everyone who has been adopted. Something severed a sacred relationship for you and my heart truly grieves for every child unable to have that relationship. It does. I wouldn’t have adopted if it didn’t. But I say, that tragic thing that happened to you happened before you were adopted. 
  • (B) You use the word adoption like some people use the word Hitler. Adoption isn’t the best thing, but in most cases it is the best attempt to make up for a tragedy.
  • (me) You know why I don’t use my real name here. To give everyone in my life privacy. Everything I have written is true, only names and certain other identifying details have been changed. You have done the same for your daughter, have you not?
  • (B) Not since her legal name was changed. Or as I’m sure you would say, her name that is a lie.
  • (me) I would not. And you really should know better than to say so.
  • (B) Sorry, I am mad at you. I see you call just about everything related to adoption a lie.
  • (me) Amended birth certificates are a lie. That should be obvious.
  • (me) The love I feel for my adopted parents, however, is not a lie.
  • (B) I know your adoptive family didn’t turn out very well and I am really sorry about that. But to blame that on adoption is like blaming a private tutor for your kid’s learning disabilities.
  • (me) And if you really read my blog, you would know that, too.
  • (B) I have read it.
  • (B) I didn’t read your book, but I have read the segments A has posted.
  • (me) Then I’m at a loss as to how you can read into it the way you have.
  • (me) My adoptive family would be considered a great success. There’s the irony.
  • (me) I need to end this debate, B. I meant what I said, about everything. That’s all.

There it is, in all its confounding glory. Obviously, some of the comments are out of order because we were replying on top of each other. There has been no communication between us since then. I, for one, am tired of reaching out with an olive branch only to have my arm ripped off. I am also tired of being the one to extend the olive branch, and to be “understanding” when I am the one who was offended.

I mulled over whether to post about this, but finally decided I needed to. This is exactly why Flip The Script was created.

So here now are my replies to every point. I am only sorry for the length.

If B actually read the post about passports, she would know I felt I was made to lie, because I had to swear the documents presented were the truth. Washington State birth certificates, both original/birth and amended/adopted, are titled CERTIFICATE OF LIVE BIRTH. The original is later stamped “non-certified” meaning not legal, and sealed. The amended becomes the legal, factual document of birth. So saying, “it just says I’m her mother, not that I gave birth to her,” doesn’t fly. It does say you gave birth to her. And that, by definition, is a legal lie.

Trying to corner me with, “What more truthful thing would you have me do?” is a false argument for the same reason: I never said you were lying. I said I, and by extension, we, are forced to lie because of adoption laws. Laws that have not changed, by the way. It’s the same, only wrapped differently. The birth certificate is still amended and sealed. You have no say in the matter. Even if you wanted a totally open adoption, when it’s finalized, that’s what would happen.

“I’m sorry some people feel we lied.” How very passive aggressive of you. And unnecessary. And uncharacteristically dense. I know you can read. All I can figure is, you are deliberately reading “anti-adoption” negativity into my posts, to create some sort of safe zone where every decision you make regarding your daughter’s adoption is good and right. And that means distancing yourself from me. So you’re right about that: Your feelings of being accused are in your own mind. Or at least they were until now.

But then it turns into how I’m attacking everyone who adopts. How I just carry on about how bad adoption is, and never acknowledge wonderful changes, like open adoption.

Funny, I have said more than once that open adoption is a step in the right direction. It’s not a perfect solution, but better than anonymity. Since you read whatever I write with a biased slant, you wouldn’t notice.

Then: “You say you want honesty but you don’t even use your own name.”  Well, let me clear that up for you. It’s the very beginning of my book, which you also won’t read:


My name isn’t really Elle. Or Noelle. When considering pseudonyms for this project I wanted my name to mean “girl” since my original birth certificate said only “Infant Girl Linden.” And since I was born at Christmastime, I thought it would be funny to call myself Noël (“Christmas”) for the book and Elle (“she”) as a pen name. Elle/No-Elle. What can I say? I have a twisted sense of humor.

I should also mention my original surname is not Linden. In fact none of the names in this book are real. They have all been changed so I can avoid the unpleasantness of being sued or excluded from family gatherings.

Other identifying details have also been changed, such as locations. If I write, for example, “Spokane” chances are good the actual location is somewhere in the vicinity of Spokane. I tried to stick to cities large enough to be recognizable. The one exception for this is Tacoma since the city itself plays a large part in the story. So when I write “Tacoma” I mean Tacoma. But even then the neighborhoods are of my own invention, as is my hometown of Cedarlake.

If you really know me, you will see through all this. You may even recognize yourself as you read. If so, you may wonder why some characteristics of your person and/or life have been changed or merged with another person. Two reasons: simplicity and confidentiality. Simplicity in that I wrote only concerning certain themes. If I put everything and everyone in, this would be the first of a rambling ten-book series. I don’t think anyone wants that. Confidentiality in that although I tried to focus on the best in people, I realize not everyone likes attention, even in a good way (see: Norwegians). So while some information has been “rearranged” to disguise the characters, the essential facts are true.


Then I went on to say I promised my daughters I would say as little about them as possible, to protect their privacy. They are the only family members who know about the book, and they all gave their approval before I published it. I am concerned others, such as my dad, would not like it simply because it is so personal. This is my way of protecting them while still telling my story.

This part really makes my head spin: “Something horrible happened to you, and to everyone who has been adopted. Something severed a sacred relationship for you and my heart truly grieves for every child unable to have that relationship. It does. I wouldn’t have adopted if it didn’t. But I say, that tragic thing that happened to you happened before you were adopted.”

So once again, adoption is the good thing that happened after the bad thing. The “something” that severed the sacred relationship between me and my birth family was simply that it was impossible for a single woman in our society to keep a baby when I was born. That’s it. So the “something” was relinquishment. Not to an orphanage, or a foster home, or an adoption agency, or left on a doorstep. I was relinquished for adoption. That sacred relationship was severed by adoption. I went directly from the hospital to my adoptive parents’ home. It was planned that way between my birth mother, the doctor, and my adoptive parents. You cannot separate “relinquished” and “for adoption.” One was the result of the other. To use today’s vernacular, my mother “made an adoption plan.” So you’re saying the horrible, tragic thing that happened to me was that I was born? Because there was no other trauma, other than being separated from my mother.

Next: “You use the word adoption like some people use the word Hitler. Adoption isn’t the best thing, but in most cases it is the best attempt to make up for a tragedy.” 

Like being born out of wedlock to an otherwise perfectly capable mother during a time when that was intolerable?

And Hitler? Really? This comment just proved you had read nothing I wrote, even during this exchange, except for what suited your purposes.

And finally: “I know your adoptive family didn’t turn out very well and I am really sorry about that. But to blame that on adoption is like blaming a private tutor for your kid’s learning disabilities.”

W-o-w. You won’t read my book, but you can say with authority my adoptive family didn’t turn out well, and that I blame any bad aspect of my life on adoption. You mean like the part where I wore my adoptive mother’s wedding dress and named my first child after her? Or when my brother lived with me to help out after my divorce? Or maybe my undying love and devotion to my father? Is that the failure you’re referring to?

Even with all this, I was unsure about writing this blog post, thinking maybe it was just a personal gripe. Then, a few days later, this showed up in a private Facebook group, written by people who don’t know anything about me:

(C) This morning I had one of those moments that only a fellow adoptee can understand. I was filling out forms and it asks for your given name at birth. I know what they are asking for and I filled it in with the appriopriate response, the name given to me at the time of my adoption. However, it does give me a moment and causes me to pause. I did have another name at birth, I want to acknowledge it. I want the world to acknowledge it.

(D) If you apply for a passport it asks the same question and then you have to swear the info you gave is the truth. So the govt made me lie because I do know my given name at birth and it isn’t what they wanted.

That’s when I knew I had to write it. Not only for myself, but for all adoptees who have been put into this position. I considered how this will no doubt be the end of my friendship with B, but you can’t lose what you don’t have. Her respect for me clearly died some time ago. I’ll have to accept that like every other loss of relationship I’ve experienced. I’m getting better at it, thanks to a lot of practice.

No comments, please.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Flipping the Script and Losing Friends

  1. Hi Elle,

    You know this just really underlines that when you question the “sacred institution of adoption” you are automatically “anti-adoption,” and if you are an adoptee, then you become the “angry adoptee.” It really is cognitive dissonance. This adoptive mother is upset, because you represent her worst fears…an unfogged articulate adoptee, speaking the truth she cannot handle. I have a theory that adoptive parents like us to be compliant, quiet, all-happy about adoption, with no downside… because if we feel anything other than that, then they are forced to acknowledge their own participation in it. As long as society in general only equates adoption = positive we will see this. Hopefully we’ll see change as we all push forward. I hate that because I am one of those “abused adoptees,” that somehow I am then “the bitter angry adoptee” “who had a bad adoption experience, and is taking it out on the good adoption folks.”

    Tracy

  2. I know I said “no comments” but when Tracy wrote this on my Facebook page, I felt it perfectly summed up the entire post and the emotions and reasoning (or lack of) behind the phenomenon.

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