Announcing the Kindle World Release of FORBIDDEN FAMILY: My Life as an Adoptee Duped By Adoption

I am thrilled to announce the Kindle edition world release of my memoir, Forbidden Family: My Life as an Adoptee Duped by Adoption on Saturday July 18, 2015.

Raised as an only child of my adoptive parents, when I turned 18 in 1974, I was found by full-blood siblings I was never supposed to know. Less than a year later, I joined Adoptees’ Liberty Movement Association and began researching and writing about adoption. All the while, my adoptive family and natural family opposed my activism.

Please join me in my journey by picking up your copy of Forbidden Family: My Life as an Adoptee Duped by Adoption today at one of the Kindle online stores listed below.


Thank you,

Joan Mary Wheeler
Born as
Doris Michol Sippel

“The death of my married mother when I was an infant led to my closed adoption. Eighteen years later, I was found by family I was never supposed to know.”

2015-4-24 Kindle Book Cover.





The Netherlands:









Truth in Adoption: I Was the Skeleton in the Closet

For the duration of my childhood, I was raised with the belief that my birth was “the skeleton in the closet” and that I was to never ask about it. I was simply told two different stories during my childhood. The stories were never discussed, just stated.

The first story was told to me when I was a child of about four or five years old. I remember it clearly. My mother came up to me, knelt down on the floor and said, “You are adopted. Your mother had too many children so she gave you to us”. Then, my mother kissed me, got up, and left the room. My little world was shattered. My mother wasn’t my mother. She just told me I had another mother. Even a five year old knows that mothers love their children, so why would my mother just give me away?

The second story, told to me by my adoptive mother when I was about ten years old, went something like this, “Your mother died of cancer just three months after giving birth to you. Your father thought it best that you live with us”.

What is a child supposed to do with that information? I felt a huge hole in my heart, but did not know it was grief. I stuffed my feelings down inside me, just as I stuffed inside the information stated to me when I was five. What does a child do with the statement “your mother had too many children so she gave you to us”? I was too numb to realize that “too many children” meant that I had sisters and brothers. I was raised an only child, so I longed for siblings to play with, but I dared not think about it too much for if I did, then  I might actually acknowledge that I had siblings out there somewhere.

Then there were parties for the children (adoptive cousins) who were my parents’ God Children. A fuss was made: a card, a cake, gifts for the God Children from my parents to the God Children. These children were my cousins, so it was just another party for kids. But when I asked who my God Parents were, my adoptive mother said, “We don’t know who they are.”


She knew, but she did not want to tell me.

I sat there at a party for my parents’ God Daughter and stared at my mother. It was clear I was to never talk about the subject again.

For those of you who think that this is the way it was done in the 1950s and 1960s, think again. To dismiss the importance of the cruelty done to me by washing it away with a blanket statement to excuse the problem because of the social time it happened is to tell me that the issues don’t need to be brought up now: “For God’s sake, it is over and done with.” “Don’t live in the past.” “Get over it.” “It’s the way it was done, so let it be.” “Things are different now.” Are they? Are adoptive parents more careful with their adoptees’ feelings and facts of life? I doubt it.

What was said to me as a child stayed with me, creating lasting impressions. These statements haunt me now in the form of traumatic flashbacks. These, and other comments and exchanges, created the PTSD that I must live with now.

Oh yes, here’s one other snappy comment made by my adoptive mother to me when I was a child. My mother was angry with me because a neighbor’s child, my playmate of about eight years old, told her mother that I said I was adopted. The mother then reported the news to my mother, who retaliated to me with fierce anger.

“Joanie,” she yelled, “Other people don’t need to know our skeletons in the closet!”

I was filled with shame for telling another child that I was adopted. I was ashamed of myself, but did not know why I deserved to feel this way.

So, today, as the pro-adoption crowd proudly goes on with their happy “National Adoption Awareness Month” of November, I would like to begin by warning adoptive parents everywhere not to make the same mistakes that my adoptive parents made.

There will be more mistakes discussed here in the days ahead.

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, born Doris M Sippel, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.

Adoptee Psychology, Genetics, the Unnatural Act of Adopting and Questions for Adoptive Parents

Today’s post was inspired by a blog post I read this morning and by an occurrence at a dinner party. Since I’m not feeling particularly “put together” at the moment, this post may be choppy and disjointed.

I’d like to direct my readers to Rhode Island adoptee John Greene’s blog post titled “Adoption and The Adoptees Reality” in which he addresses some points of specific psychology of being adopted. The topic needs to be understood, not just by adoptees, but by adoptive and pre-adoptive parents, especially in the wake of NCFA’s recent call for money donations to “make adoption strong” to fight the anti-adoption community and NPR’s Scott Simon’s two NPR interviews on his recently published memoir on being the adoptive father of two girls from China here (224 comment to date) and here (34 comments to date).

John Greene notes the works of three American adoption researchers: Nancy Verrier (The Primal Wound), Betty Jean Lifton, PhD (Journey of the Adopted Self), and Dr. David Brodzinsky (The Lifelong Journey to Self). It is best to read their works for a more complete study.

John Greene asks the question:

“How does the adopted individual feel about being relinquished?”

I believe that the average pre-adoptive and adoptive parent does not delve into this question, for if they did, they might find the answers disturbing enough to think twice about adoption in a positive light. If adoptive and pre-adoptive parents take a hard look at the realities of adoption, they may not think adoption was such a great and wonderful “thing” they have done, or want to do.

I’ll make a side journey here to what happened at a dinner party I attended last week. A guest, whom I did not know, remarked that so-and-so was adopting another child — from the same birthmother. The assumption from the folks hearing such a comment was the (tired) refrain “how wonderful of you to adopt, again!” At which point I almost spewed the food I was chewing. No one else but my date and the hostess knew that I was adopted and reunited since 1974, but, despite this, the hostess continued blathering on praising adoption while my date and I were wide-eyed. I gulped my food down and stuffed down my feelings. I kept quiet, realizing that no amount of talking would help these clueless people know the true meaning of adoption to the children involved. If I had “opened my mouth” and spoke truthfully about adoption, my comments would have been seen as hostile and a verbal fight would have ensued. So, the only way for me to deal with yet another instance of praise for adoption while ignoring adoptee and natural parent pain was for me to ignore the immediacy of the moment and write about it here.

This is where I beg adoptive and pre-adoptive parents to listen and read what grown adoptees and adoption researchers are saying. Take a long look at the devastating effects of adoption and know what you are doing to your adoptee! You may not intentionally be causing your adoptee harm, but the very fact of being an adoptee sets a person up for emotional and physical trauma.

John Greene explains:

…Is it nature or nurture that composes him/her? Adoptees ponder relentlessly whether their true “self” derives from their nature, the traits and characteristics they are born with; or from nurture as a result of the adoptive environment they are enveloped within. Traditionally the concept of nature or nurture is viewed as if it’s one transitioning into the other, or if one has more influence than the other. I feel these perspectives are the wrong approach. I sense with the adoptee world it’s nature and nurture continually working symbiotically with one another.

…non-adoptees are able to see and learn their biological nature in action from their parents and other genetic family. While the non-adoptees are nurturing and developing/ thriving within their natural environment they are also learning and governed by the family’s biological nature. …this is the element of true balance of nature and nurture an adoptee is deprived of and most likely will never come to have the opportunity to appreciate. It is the adoptee’s elusive biological nature the adoptee subconsciously chases. It is the adoptee’s biological nurture that eludes the adoptee consciously.

Then Greene eloquently states what so many of us adoptees feel but may not be able to verbalize:

Adoption, although genuinely intended to provide a better life, or better nurturing environment, in its raw form, in the scheme of nature itself, is an unnatural act and from the unnatural act the adoptee is presumed to resiliently bounce back.

…the adoptee is resilient but this experience isn’t something they bounce back from, the separation is a “splitting” from their natural biological connection in which they grow away from, meaning they are not intended to return to grow and thrive from their point of origin. Again, the issue isn’t so much about the resiliency of adoptees bouncing back, but more so, that they are torn away from their natural connection in which they aren’t intended to return, leaving them with a mysterious unexplainable feeling of not feeling whole. More specifically, the unexplainable feeling of not feeling whole not only stays with the adoptee it is actually the desire to feel whole, or complete. (identity)

What Greene writes next is so very important:

Technically speaking, adoptees don’t bounce back they are forced to grow in a different direction without a biological connection, away from their true biological nature. Therefore it can be said that when they are separated their nature and nurture are divided as they are forced to enter to live in their new adoptive world now consisting of nurture and unnatural. Their new balance is no longer the black and white of yin and yang representing a true balance of nature and nurture but is now say a white and green yin & yang representing an off kilter version of what the natural self is intended to be as it’s being shaped by a biological force that is unnatural and foreign to the adopted child.

The adoptee struggles for the rest of her/his life to bring the forces of nurture and unnatural together:

…the adoptee spends the greatest and most influential part of their life living within the ‘nurture’ of learning another family’s nature never knowing their true ‘natural’ half of existence, and in most cases never even grazing it.

It is important to note that while the adopted child struggles with this, so does the adopted adult, in more ways than emotional and psychological: cellular changes:

…perhaps it isn’t exclusively the separation itself that results such a reverberating effect upon the adoptee’s life. Perhaps in addition to the adoptee’s bruised psyche it’s the genetic composition in their cells that slowly grows frustrated over time because they are prevented from behaving in the manner of what’s written in their genetic code as a result of following a different family’s unique nature.

I have my own developing thoughts on the cellular changes that take place within the adoptee and am working on that for another post.

For those who want to discredit adoptee pain by claiming their adoptee is as happy as a clam, John Greene also addresses the different levels of adoptee awareness:

…there are three basic classifications of adoptees: 1) Those who have recognized that adoption has impacted their life; 2) Those adoptees who have not recognized that adoption has impacted their life; 3) Adoptees who feel great inner calamity and turmoil but have no idea what these strong feelings are attributed to.


…how are adoptees supposed to know how it feels to be a non-adoptee and develop within the normal balance of nature and nurture with biological parents? This is why it can be said an adoptee will never be able to fathom how a non-adoptee feels and vice-versa.

Clearly, adoption predisposes the separated natural child/adopted adult to psychic pain. It is my opinion that adoption IS child/adult adoptee abuse. This is an awful way to cope with life. This is what adoption does to a person.

I consider the emotional, psychological and physical damage to be enough to dissuade anyone from adopting, but if it is concrete evidence you want, that can be found in the actual destruction of the adoptee’s family of origin, and destruction and falsification of the adoptee’s birth certificate. Those are civil rights issues apart from the psychological fallout of the act of adoption. But the proof of the birth certificate fiasco is sealed from most adoptees at the very will and intention of our adoptive parents and the National Council For Adoption.

No, I cannot find one single reason, not one single justification, for child abduction/adoption. Family Preservation, kinshp care must be alternatives to adoption, and Guardianship, yes, as that provides a loving home with the dignified respect due to a person’s birth family, name and sense of self. And don’t get me talking about the evils of Open Adoption.

Knowing just this much, without reading entire books on the subject, my questions to pre-adoptive and adoptive parents are this: why would you intentionally put a child/adult — the very adoptee you so lovingly take as your own — through such a lifelong ordeal?  Adding the complications of race and intercountry adoptions and separations, why would you adopt a child? How could you cause so much pain to another human being?

Re-Post: NCFA’s Stay At Home Gala 2009

As promised, here are the links to my re-posts on NCFA and their blunders:

Response to NCFA’s “Mutual Consent: Balancing the Birthparent’s Right to Privacy with the Adopted Person’s Desire to Know” – Re-Post


Re-Post of Last Year’s Commemoration: Commentary on article “Anti-Adoption Advocates: How Should We Respond?”

 For added pizzazz in light of the recent email from Chuckie and the Gang at NCFA asking for donations to fight the us in the “anti-adoption community”, I hearby re-post from March 7, 2009. Please note that the link has been disabled at the NCFA’s website, but I saved the entire INVITATION just for the fun of it. (Remember those starnge photos on the NCFA website of their pizza party and party games and paper towels and soda pop? My, THAT’s an Adoption GALA!) 


Here’s an invitation from the National Council For Adoption (NCFA) —


SURPRISE! for all we care! Gather with family and friends and share stories, take photos, and celebrate the many ways adoption has changed your life. We’ll join you from our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia! Gala: $1,000 and higher – With your sponsorship of $1,000 or more, you will receive recognition as a Stay at Home Gala Sponsor on NCFA’s website, a picture frame to commemorate your celebration of adoption, as well as the Stay at Home Gala Adoption Party Sheet, with fun facts about adoption, challenging adoption trivia questions, and a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire to document memories of your family’s adoption story. You will also be able to share your adoption story with us and send us photos from your celebration of adoption. With your permission, we’ll upload them to our website and share your story with our friends on Facebook. You will also receive a tax-deductible receipt for your gift. to celebrate together. Please share this page with your friends and family who share your passion for adoption!! with you in April 2010!
Click here and visit the Stay at Home Gala website

We’re having the Gala at YOUR house this year! That’s right! This year, YOU’RE THE HOST of NCFA’s 2009 Gala!

Like many nonprofits, the economy has presented us with new challenges. So we’re trading the glamour and glitz for a low-cost celebration of adoption at home with our loved ones so that we can use your gift to help more children find permanent families.

We’re inviting you to celebrate adoption with us on April 8, 2009 in the comfort of your own home. Dress up, dress down, dress in your PJs

So how does this work?

Sponsor the Stay at Home

Purchase a “ticket” to the Stay at Home Gala

Purchase a “ticket” at one of the following levels before April 8 or send your gift to NCFA! Your gift will go to help children find permanent families.

The Real Deal Throwdown: $250 and higher – With your gift of $250 or more, you will receive the Stay at Home Gala Adoption Party Sheet, with fun facts about adoption, challenging adoption trivia questions, and a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire to document memories of your family’s adoption story. You will also be able to share your adoption story with us and send us photos from your celebration of adoption. With your permission, we’ll upload them to our website and share your story with our friends on Facebook. You will also receive a tax-deductible receipt for your gift.

We Know How to Party: $100 – With your $100 gift, you will receive the Stay at Home Gala Adoption Party Sheet, with fun facts about adoption, challenging adoption trivia questions, and a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire to document memories of your family’s adoption story. You will also receive a tax-deductible receipt for your gift.

My Head’s Hit the Pillow: $75 – With your $75 gift, you will have “sweet dreams” and receive a tax-deductible receipt.

Invite your friends and family

The more, the merrier! Let’s face it, getting your family together is no easy task. Something tells us your family won’t want to miss an evening of take-out and trivia! Invite your friends and family and spend some serious quality time

Participate in the Stay at Home Gala Online Auction

Kick your bidding skills into high gear and support NCFA by bidding on exceptional items. Bidding starts on March 18 at noon and closes on April 8 at 11:00pm. You will receive an e-mail notice on March 18 with a link to the online auction to start bidding!

Happy celebrating from your friends at NCFA!

P.S. We look forward to celebrating our 30th anniversary



…. … … … … … …


There you have it!


Oh, I’m so excited! I’m going to an ADOPTION PARTY!


I’ll be wearing my Birthday Suit. But wait, this is an Adoption Party, so I guess I should wear all those body sores my adoptive mom tells me I had all over my tiny body. Yeah, from what I hear, I came into my adoptive home with diaper rash so severe, that, well, it sure must have been awful because that’s all I heard about how I should feel grateful that I was saved.


Yeah, I had a nice home while I was growing up. A nice home in the suburbs and everything I ever asked for. I got Women’s size 9 ice skates when I was 10 years old and was told to stuff tissues in the toes so my feet would stay inside. But when I skated on skates that were too big for my feet, I couldn’t skate. Dangerous, don’t you think? But hunting for Christmas trees and chopping down our own made up for skates that didn’t fit me. And all those happy memories I have with cousins, aunts and uncles who nurtured me along with my adoptive parents, those memories are cherished deep in my heart.


Here we go! Uncle Frank is driving us over The Peace Bridge into Canada! USA! USA! USA! Wait! CANADA! CANADA! CANADA! We’re in another country now! We’re going to Crystal Beach! …Rolling around the flat back space of a station wagon as a toddler with 4 sister-cousins…playing Combat with little green plastic soldiers and wooden blocks with brother-cousins…Listening to Tom and Gerry before they were Paul and Art with another cousin family…fireworks and picnics…Akron Park…thanks for the memories, ‘cause we were family. Thanks to me dear ole’ Dad, thanks to Mom for her mother-daughter-doll dresses, and thanks for the love. 


Okay. We’re all here. Let’s begin our party…


Prior to having fun, participants must take part in a solemn Candle Light Vigil for the natural family who suffered some form of tragedy that set in motion events for a newborn or older child to leave that family.


We will begin our Candle Light Vigil by writing down the names of the individuals lost to us. If you don’t know the names of your mother and father, then write down “Not applicable”, or “adopted, have no information”.


Next, participants will write down the names of siblings we lost because adoption prevented us from having our siblings while growing up. If you don’t know the names of your full or half or step siblings, then write down “Not applicable”, or “adopted, have no information”.


Next, we will write down the name of the hospital we were born in, and the town, and the state, or the country. If you don’t know, write, “Don’t Know, my birth information is under state seal.”


We will then pass the hat to collect our pieces of paper. We’ll turn out the lights. A single white candle will be lit. We will bow our heads as Enya’s Only Time plays on the CD player. A lone voice will read out loud the names written on the pieces of paper. If a blank paper is handed in, there will be a slight pause. If the words “Not applicable” or “Don’t Know” are written, those words will be read out loud. As our minds are filled with emptiness, or actual names, we will remember from whence we came. If we cannot remember, or we do not consciously know, we will sit quietly and listen. We will pay respects to the past. We will pay respects to our ancestors. This will be a signal to the Universe to send our thoughts to our missing blood-kin. Thus begins our grieving process for who and what we lost.


After ten minutes, the house lights go up, CD player turned off. Those sappy emotional floodgates shall be closed, gulped down, turned off, suppressed, ignored, denied, mocked and ridiculed, shamed, humiliated, and passed off as non-existent. We will then be expected to not think about “them” any longer because we have a new family now. Our new family totally negates anything that came before it. Don’t bother to look in the mirror because what you look like doesn’t matter. Don’t bother to play the guitar or sing, don’t bother to pick up a sketch pad and draw life-like renderings; those talents that you feel compelled to do because they come to you so naturally, well, you’d better put away such nonsense. That’s not who you are.


As an adoptee, you belong 100% to your adopted, forever family: You will do things our way now. And if we don’t like you, we can send you back. We can even send you anonymous envelopes with little slips of paper inside that read, “We don’t want you, go back to where you came from”, and “I know why your father gave you away — he couldn’t stand the sight of you”, and “You don’t deserve to live for what you’ve done”. We can even send those unmarked envelopes to your church because we are all Catholic in this family. Since you decided to leave the Roman Catholic Faith and join a Liberal Church, well, we have no respect for THAT. So, we can send unmarked envelopes to your church, addressed to you, so your minister can hand you that envelope because someone is really trying to get a hold of you. Inside, there is a photo of my then-husband with a note: “He is a fat pig.” Gee, I wonder, was the sender of this note a bit on the heavy side or a lot on the heavy side? Was this a man or a woman who sent this to my church?


Fun Facts of Adoption

Gee, does that mean my adopted family can boast about their family tree, while I can only whimper in the corner? Does that mean that my adopted family can gloat how much Al Junior looks so much like Al Senior, and, wonder of wonders, all the 10 grown kids look the same, too! Wow! Isn’t that cool?


Oh, oh, oh! I got one! This is really good! We can all agree that we can spy on the adoptee and not tell her that we’re doing it! Yeah! That sounds like FUN!


Oh, oh, oh! I got a better one! When she writes another article in the paper, we can cut it out and save it! When she does something we don’t like, we can send it to her in an unmarked envelope, and, before we seal that envelope, we can write nasty little things in the margins! Yeah! That sounds like REAL Fun! And then, we can, we can, watch her fall apart, dissolve into tears, as she suffers another panic attack! Yeah! This is really fun! Why didn’t the National Council For Adoption think of this DECADES ago!?


Oh no, no, no! I got an even better one that no one has thought of before! Let’s go up to her when her father dies and tell her, “You OPENLY declare you have two fathers! Ha! Two fathers! Who ever heard of that? You really are dumb, Joan! Two fathers! Wow! That’s really funny! Who died and left you Queen?”


Uhh, my mother died. But that doesn’t matter, does it? She’s dead. But I have a replacement right over here. No, I didn’t have a mother who gave birth to me, why, I was found in the CABBAGE PATCH!


challenging adoption trivia questions

Trivia questions? Like, how many adoptees does it take to turn out the lights? Answer: NONE. Adoptees are supposed to kept in the dark! Ha Ha!


fill-in-the-blank questionnaire to document memories of your family’s adoption story

The first 18 years of my life were spent in blissful ignorance of the facts of my life purposefully withheld from me by loving adoptive parents who absolutely did not want me to ever know the facts of my life, facts that they knew about me. Fill in the blanks? I’ve spent every day since March 5, 1974, the day I was found by a sister I never knew, trying to fill in the blanks of my life. This is psychological abuse, from which one does not fully recover.


My Head’s Hit the Pillow … you will have “sweet dreams”

Oh My Gosh! Does this mean I can go to sleep without seeing those flashbacks, or feel those night terrors, or wonder which person or persons from my adoptive family hates me now? Can I stop taking my anti-anxiety and sleep meds, now? Will this really make me sleep better?


Kick your bidding skills into high gear and support NCFA by bidding on exceptional items.

Oh, this must mean, like, have a line-up of little kids standing on a stage, on a platform, like they used to do in the days of the orphanage. Then the kids watch as strangers eye them up one by one.

Which one will they pick? Let’s see. This one’s too tall. This one’s too short. This one feels better in my arms. Let’s take this one, dear! No, wait, I don’t think I want a strange kid in my house. I really want to be pregnant. Let’s forget about adoption. I want a sperm donor. Can we go look at the gorgeous, strong men online and pick the one who will be the umm, umm, the donor, ‘cause really, you’ll be the Dad, dear! What do you mean I can’t get pregnant? My eggs are no good? Oh, but I still can get pregnant! Let’s go look online at the busty blondes with exceptionally high IQs. I want a baby, no matter what it takes! And I’ll love that baby sooo-ooo much! But we can’t ever tell IT where IT came from! No, that’s our secret. Little, itty-bitty baby doesn’t need to know anyway! Gichy-gitchy goo! I love you! No price is too high for my happiness…


NCFA: How can you be so unprofessional? Your agency has made a mockery out of us adoptees, and our natural parents, again! When are you gonna grow up and join a civilized society?

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, born Doris M Sippel, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.





Part 5: Response to The Buffalo News 3-Part Series Search for Yesterday: Adoptive, Birth Parents See Reunion Problems: My Natural Father Speaks Out 1984

Appearances are deceiving, or are they?


I honestly don’t know where to begin.

Right from the start there are the two adoptive mothers who are defending their rights to someone else’s child:

“I don’t want to sound unsympathetic to birth parents”

She just did by dismissing their loss of their child.

“I wouldn’t want someone else to say ‘she’s my daughter’.”

Wow, such denial of the facts of life coming from an adoptive mother who probably was infertile so she thought adopting (taking) someone else’s child as her own was the best choice for herself and the child. Guess what? Her Korean girl IS some else’s daughter!

This “all or nothing” thinking is what causes problems in adoption.

“…chances for a reunion with her biological family are lessened. We didn’t adopt internationally because of that, but it’s a fringe benefit of adopting from another country…That’s one problem you’d almost never have to deal with.”

Really? This adoptive mother contradicted herself. She told me, via a phone call back in 1984, that the only reason she adopted foreign children is make sure her children would never have contact from their birth families.

So, the adoptee’s right to know her own natural parents and siblings and country of origin is seen by her adoptive mother as a problem that is avoided because the chances of reunion are next to nill because the birth family is in Korea? How convenient for the adoptiveparents, or at least this adoptivemother. Notice that adoptive fathers are absent from this article, and even in the series presented in my previous post. Also note that natural fathers are absent from discussion involving illegitimate births.

How am I able to write about this now, nearly 26 years later? Because I took notes.

I’d like to know what that cute Korean toddler of 1984 has to say now in 2010 when she realizes that (by the will of her loving, forever, real adoptive parents) she was held in captivity because her adoptive parents didn’t love her enough to give her the freedom necessary to build her own self identity.

There are so many blogs out there now written by adoptees of color who were adopted by white people and brought to America. These adoptees do not like what was done to them.

I sure do hope that this family has done quite a bit of healing for the adoptee’s sake, if not for the sake of the misguided adoptive parents.

“I think it would be difficult for any child to have two real mothers and two real fathers…”

Yes, it is a difficult path, but all adoptees DO have two mothers and two fathers and they are most certainly REAL. Both sets are real in the adoptee’s life. To deny that is to warp the adoptee’s sense of self.

The other adoptive mother said:

“But I’m not in favor of my daughter finding her mother and forming a relationship…I think it would take away from our relationship, and I feel there would be a strain on our relationship.”

I still meet adoptive parents today who feel this way. It’s that “All or Nothing” thinking again. The shades of grey are there in real life, but not in adoption. Or that’s just the way adoptive parents want it. The  adoptee needs both sets of parents, with or without a relationship, because, whether or not adoptive parents realize it, the adoptee already HAS a relationship with her natural parents. It is the bonds of biology, of genetics, of being hard-wired to haveinherent qualities of temperament and talents and allergies and muscle structure and facial features. With such selfishness of these adoptive parents, it is hard to see any real love there. I see possessiveness and desperate attempts to claim “mine, all mine!”, but this does not speak well of adoptive parent attitudes of 1984.

Like I said, this attitude is still alive in adoptive parents today.

“The birth parents don’t seem to realize the relationship has ended once the papers have been signed. I think it’s a real invasion of privacy when they attempt to meet the child.”

No, it’s the adoptive parents who don’t realize that the relationship between the adoptee and her natural parents continues throughout her lifetime, even if there is no contact. The adoptee feels the loss. The natural parents feel the loss. And we’ve seen natural parents coming out by the thousands, in America and in Korea and elsewhere, to put an end to “taking someone else’s child as your own.”

“Giving birth doesn’t make the parents. It’s the caring and loving and growing with the child that does.”

And natural parents have been coerced into giving up their children to adoption out of shame. They were prevented from the actual parenting of their own children because of that permanent separation. We know from organizations such as Origins and Concerned United Birthparents that these mothers desperately wanted to do the natural acts of parenting, but were forced out of the their child’s lives.

Being pregnant and giving birth are natural events and are most certainly the very essence of life itself. It is the adoptive mother in this article who berates pregnancy and birth because she was deprived of experiencing the very events she puts down.

Hurray for Dr. David Brodzinsky — a former Buffalonian! — for his professional statements. Dr. Brodzinskihas gone on to be a prolific writer on the psychology of adoption. He is the co-author or co-editor of five influential books on adoption,  including The Psychology of Adoption (1990); Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self (1992); Children’s Adjustment to Adoption: Developmental and Clinical Issues (1998); Adoption and Prenatal Drug Exposure: Research, Policy, and Practice (2000), and Psychological Issues in Adoption: Research and Practice (2005).

Still, Dr. Brodzinsky’s statement in this 1984 article raises concern:

“He doesn’t see the issue in terms of ‘rights’. Adoptive parents have the same rights or lack of rights as all parents have…”

Auh, what about the adoptee’s rights?

The International Adoption Reform Movement has made great progress since 1984: Bastard Nation, the American Adoption Congress, Council on Equal Rights in Adoption, Adoption Crossroads, Origins, Concerned United Birthparents, Senior Mothers and hundreds of adoptees’ blogs, mothers of loss blogs, oh, and The Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute, to name a few entities out there promoting adoptees’ rights.

Now, about my natural father’s photo in the paper and his statements.

First thing that must be said: He did not want to be identified in my book, so I changed his name and any other identifications that could lead to him today. BUT, he chose to go public in 1984. He called the newspaper to defend himself. For what? I have always had respect and love for him, and especially his third and present wife, my loving step mother. Nothing I ever wrote put him  down in any way.

As a result of this article, at that time in 1984, my natural father and I healed a five-year period of silence between us. We continued in a growing and loving father-daughter relationship. He was actively involved with my two children, two of his many grandchildren, and we shared tender moments. My father tearfully relayed to me what happened when my mother died — a story he had not been able to tell me in detail until after 1984. He cried when he told me that he “gave the baby — you — up, up, … up for adoption.” I could see remorse in his face and in his heart.

Since the printing of this article, my father and I talked of how newspaper reporters make situations worse by exaggerating points. He wanted to be sure the public knew he “abided by the law” and stayed away from me while I was growing up.

My father and I talked of how the articles did not accurately portray how the adoptee and her adoptive family and natural family are effected by a reunion that went out of control. Too many people butting in, saying harsh words, trying to interfere with the adoptee adjusting to her reunion.

When this article was written, there were unspoken words between my father and I. In 1979, he thought that all I wanted was to get my hands on my sealed records, to talk about the past, to ask about my deceased mother. His worst fear was that I’d hate him for what he had done. After the publishing of this article, we came together to discuss our sore spots, coming away with a greater understanding of each other. We have spent an immense amount of personal energy since then in building a personal relationship that is much different from the relationships he had with his other children from his first wife and the children he has with his present wife. We accepted each other and what the past has done to us.

One summer night in 1987, just shortly before midnight, I knocked on my father’s door. I was despondent because my adoptive mother had just been diagnosed with cancer. I told my father I can’t bear to lose another parent to cancer. My first mother died of cancer, my adoptive father died of cancer. Slowly, my adoptive mother’s cancer went into remission, only to resurface in recent years, but that night my natural father said to me:

“I will always be here for you. We may not have the legal binds, but we have something stronger. We not only have the ties of blood, but we have the emotions in our hearts.”

Sadly, through the passage of time, and the realization that I went full steam ahead, completed and published the memoir I said I was going to write since 1976, those old fears and resentment rose up again. When asked to, my father read a rough draft of my book in 2004. He clarified points. I made corrections he asked me to make and said I represented him in a clear manner. He read another draft of the book again in 2008. This time he said it all could have been avoided if he had gotten some help. I agree. He was alone in his decision to split up his family.

Then, in 2009, I added a Social Work Assessment, of which, my father did not understand. He reacted out of emotion and fear that I do not love and respect him. That is not true. I do love him and respect him. The Social Work Assessment of my adoption was written in analytical style and encompasses all parties to my adoption. My natural father did not understand it. There were other aspects that entered into why we are again not speaking to each other: a disagreement between my natural father, my adoptive mother, and myself; so, my natural father and I parted ways again.

I went ahead with my goals. The book is out now. My adoptive mother doesn’t like it. My natural father doesn’t like it. No one looks good in this book, including me. The true destruction of adoption in my life had to be told, with or without the approval of others.

I wrote it to prevent another family from being permanently separated by adoption.

I wrote my book to make sense of my life with the facts as they were presented to me.


~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, born Doris M Sippel, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.



Part 3: The Buffalo News 3-Part Series Search for Yesterday (Adoptees) 1984

Here is the main article that offended my adoptive family and natural family because I went public — I put my face and name in the newspaper. Though I had been interviewed for newspaper and radio and public television on and off since 1976, and had been writing Letters to the Editor since 1975 (paid articles didn’t come along for a few more years at this time), this article with a larger-than-the-others photo of me really annoyed my relatives. This wasn’t my idea – the photo – it was the newspaper reporter’s idea. My natural family and my adoptive family would have much preferred that I kept quiet. I was labeled as conceited. I had been reunited and the secret outed ten years earlier, but certain people in both my adoptive family and natural family were angry for me putting my face and name in the public’s eye. But this was not the first time I had done so. I had been writing in the newspaper, and have been interviewed in the paper, since 1975, at the age of 19. I had been interviewed on radio and TV for several interviews beginning in 1976. Those tapes have long ago disapeared as they warped with age. If they hadn’t, I’d print transcripts of those 2 and 4-hour interviews.

In the nearly-full-page photo and article posted here, please note that the reporter misquoted me several times. That will be discussed following the article itself.  Two other adoptees, one age 19 and the other age 18, were interviewed as well.

1984 - DoubleTrouble - Title 1a


1984 - DoubleTrouble - Title 2a 

1984-10-18 AdopteesFaceFear-20001


1984-10-18 AdopteesFaceFear-4


1984-10-18 AdopteesFaceFear-30002


1984-10-18 AdopteesFaceFear-5


Though the author of the article, newspaper reporter Paula Voell, gave a good overview of the plight of adoptees in search, she misquoted me. I did not search for my natural family, rather, I was found by my natural family.

My natural and adoptive relatives who read the first few paragraphs were upset when they read, “To obscure their true origins, some were told their mothers died in childbirth…the false information…” Both of my families were devastated by this statement which linked me to the two other adoptees who were lied to about their natural mothers’ deaths. For days after this newspaper article’s publication, I received numerous angry phone calls and hate mail from relatives wanting to know why I had told the reporter these lies. Fact is, I didn’t lie. It was the interpretation of the readers that led to their reactions to me and to the article. Also, even though I had been told (during my childhood) that my natural mother died, HOW and WHEN she died was not told to me while I was growing up. MANY stories were told to me by many people after I was found at age 18 and many of these stories conflicted with each other.

My relatives were also upset over this paragraph: “While family members and neighbors knew that her mother had been ill, she had been advised not to become pregnant and had subsequently died while giving birth to her…” Both of my families were angry that I relayed distorted information to the reporter. Relatives telephone me and angrily yelled: “That’s not what happened! We told you what happened, you can’t get it straight that your mother did not die in childbirth! She died two or three months after your birth and she died of cancer and not because she was pregnant with you!”

The constant yelling at me about my mother’s death further eroded my emotional state. Grief at having lost my mother and having that knowledge denied to me for the first 18 years of my life in the true aspects and facts of her death were overshadowed because of the constant bombardment from relatives telling me their versions of the truth.

What I told the reporter was the collective “truths” told to me by many relatives (both natural family and adoptive family). The reporter shortened the stories to suit the length of the newspaper article.

The article had some accurate passages, however, which angered my relatives even more than the misquotes: “Why should one group know everything and the adoptee not know anything?” and “Adoptive parents are confused. We adult adoptees are coming out and saying ‘You did it all wrong.’ They need guidance, too.”

Both adoptive and natural relatives attacked me because of key phrases like “you did it all wrong”. Many aspects of my adoption were wrong. Over and above my own adoption, the system of adoption has people tied up. The SYSTEM needs to change. That was my message then, as well as now. Change the system, and eventually people’s attitudes will change, too. And yes, my adoptive parents lied to me and prevented me from knowing key truths about my life, and for that, they, and other relatives who kept their secrets, were wrong.

Today, it seems that many members of both my extended adopted family and natural family are still upset that I have gone public.

I wrote my memoir, Forbidden Family, with falsified names. Names of dead people are used but names of the living are changed. This still upsets people. I wrote the truth of what happened to me, the adoptee, and my adoptive family and my ex-husband and my children as a result of other people’s misinterpretations and judgments of me. I cannot be responsible for other people’s opinions of me, I can only be responsible for myself. I wrote a book of truth. I wouldn’t have written a book of lies. Every page was carefully vetted by editors, counselors, a literary attorney. Trafford Publishing’s legal division also approved of the content of the book.

My purpose then — when I began writing about my adoption publicly in 1975 in Erie, Pa and in Buffalo, New York in 1976, and in this interviewed newspaper article in 1984 — and now in 2010 — is to write my truth and to promote adoption reform.

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, born Doris M Sippel, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism,Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.



Check Out Amanda’s “When Will I Get Over It”

Over at The Declasified Adoptee, Amanda has a great post on “When Will I Get Over It”.

This has been asked of me countless times over the years. Amanda has a great list of “whens”. I added to her list with the comment:

“How about “when adoption ceases to exist”?!

Australia phased out child adoptions. America needs to do this as well. Kinship care and guardianship need to replace child adoptions.

Great post Amanda.

Go read a great mind.

Newly Discovered Family Keepsake: 1956 Baby Shower Card

In clearing out the attic over the past several months, I’ve discovered a few items that hold opposite meanings for myself and my adoptive mother: Greeting cards. But not just any type of greeting card. There are Baby’s First Christmas, Baby’s First Birthday, Baby’s First Valentine. The one that struck me the most, however, was the 1956 Baby Shower Card that reveals the promise of “increasing” happiness with the addition of a baby girl but ignores reality of loss of that baby’s family of birth. Such is the reality of adoption.

Here’s the front of the card:

1956 Baby Shower Card

Here’s the inside showing the cut-a-way window. The last names of the “girls at the shop” have been deleted.

 1956 Baby Shower Card - inside 1a

Here’s another view of the inside of the card with the secondary card opened:

1956 Baby Shower Card - inside 2 

 Note the words:

“A darling little baby girl

To steal your hearts away —“

 Evidently, as a child, I stole their hearts away.

Definitely, they knowingly stole me from my family.

I gained an adoptive family, but lost the family that I had.

It is inhumane what was done to me and my siblings in the name of adoption. They did it – my adoptive parents – knowingly, willfully and intentionally. They did it out of love. And with Jesus’ blessings. Good Catholics they were.

And for this I am to be grateful.

No question about it, for me, there is no way to get through this pain but radical acceptance of the reality. Do I need to mention that I have no forgiveness for the parents and extended family involved with the coverup of the truth at my expense? I am not required to give forgiveness as it was not earned, nor even asked for, except by my adoptive father immediately after he spoke with my natural father on the phone in 1974 just days after I was found.

For whose happiness did I enter their family? Theirs. I was manipulated and tricked into believing the life they fed me. I developed close attachments and love with aunts, uncles and cousins who later turned out to hate me (but other cousins and aunts and uncles were not that way). I loved my adoptive parents, but I was cheated out of life with the siblings I was never supposed to know. Meanwhile, my natural father lost his newborn daughter and his other children lost their baby sister.

Let this be a lesson to adoptive parents everywhere: be as honest as you possibly can with your adoptee. Honesty is the best policy. For when there are secrets and spiteful rage to keep the adoptee from ever knowing the truth, the adoptee suffers at the hands of the very people who are suppose to love that adoptee unconditionally. Withholding vital information and preventing a minor child contact with full or half siblings is a cruelty worthy to be called child abuse of both the adoptee and her siblings left behind.

Yes, today my elderly adoptive mother shares her joyous memories with me of the day she and my father “got” me. She talks of the baby shower that welcomed me into the family. I acknowledge her joys. This is her journey through life. I try to make her as comfortable as possible by listening to her.

I also acknowledge my profound sadness at what I lost: my entire family of birth. My father, my siblings, my aunts, uncles and cousins, and I lost my natural mother due to her early death, a death that lead to my father’s mistaken belief that the only course of action was to give me up to a completely closed adoption. We lived less than six miles apart, but this magical social construct of adoption robbed me of my family, robbed my siblings of their baby sister, and robbed my father of his daughter. The only ones who got away with any happiness and security were my adoptive parents. They got the baby they could not produce on their own. Eighteen years of infertility and voila – a baby is suddenly available by the death of her mother. Take the baby and run. Have a baby shower and pamper that baby girl with all their love. And for what? For 18 years of lies to the adoptee and 36 years of hell to pay after I was found by the very siblings my adoptive mother so adamantly declared I should never know.

The past 36 years have been filed with accusations that I have been disloyal and ungrateful. Why? For accepting the truth of my birth and adoption? Why is it always the adoptee who is expected to accept other people’s viewpoints and opinions? Is it worth it to be permanently separated by arbitrary laws and social constructs to create a falsehood within  which the adoptee is expected to live? No, it is not.

I have been told with flippant comments from non-adoptees that “that’s the way it was done back then”.

So? That doesn’t make it right. I am the one to suffer the consequences of other people’s actions. My life as an adoptee was not worth the cocoon-sheltered childhood and the emotional and psychological abusive adult life I have had to endure because of adoption.

Now I must slowly say goodbye to a misguided elderly adoptive mother, make her journey to life’s passing as gentle as possible, and struggle to comprehend the devastation left behind.

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.



Unitarian Universalist Church Does Not Quite Get it About Mothers Day and Adoption

I write today’s blog post from the point of view of being the daughter of two mothers: one who gave me life and the other who raised me.

It is not easy being the daughter of two mothers, especially since my time with my first mother was so short. She died when I was three months old. She was dying during her pregnancy with me — a death that resulted in my father’s grief and belief that his only option and the best choice of action he could do for me was to relinquish me to the total care of another set of parents.

I do not believe that was the best choice. I needed to be with the family I was born into.

But since I was raised instead by a stranger who became my mother through a legal decree, I struggle through the sadness and loss each and every day of my life. I grieve for the family I lost because of adoption. I grieve for the loss of a mother who left the earth far too early. I grieve for the mother who adopted me as she was misguided in her possessiveness. She clings to me now in a nursing home. I give her what I can, but mostly, what’s done is done. I’m sad for her suffering and pending death. I also have a step mother who is married to my natural father.

Mother’s Day is a day of sadness for me.

I start each Sunday, including Mother’s Day, by attending a service at my local UU Church.

It’s bad enough that a dear friend of mine, a mother of adoption loss, will not attend our local UU Church (she used to) for the hypocrisy there. I agree with her. There’s wealthy adoptive parents who give lip-service about the natural parents of the adopted children they hold dear. Like the adoptive mother who got a standing ovation for adopting a three year old Haitian earthquake survivor. And don’t get me started about the abundance of gays and lesbians at church who use ANONYMOUS sperm and eggs and surrogate mothers and don’t seem to care that they willingly withhold knowledge of the absent genetic parent(s) to the children so created. In the face of all of that, I still attend the Buffalo Unitarian Universalist Church. My friend doesn’t. I miss her. I honor her for her integrity to stay away.

I look beyond these human failings, even our minister who spoke awhile back about the appropriations of other religions, or rather, the miss-appropriations, without even noticing, or caring, that many people appropriate other people’s children with a sense of entitlement.

It is not easy to look beyond these in-your-face adoption assaults.

I am at this church weekly for the spiritual, intellectual, and suburb musical performances of our choir and musicians.

Today’s guest minister, Reverend Sally Hamlin, participated in a service inspired and encouraged by Debra Hafner, an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, sexologist and Director of the Religious Institute.

This was the responsive reading:

A Responsive Reading for Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day, we honor mothers and caregivers everywhere – women who have given birth, women who have adopted children, women who care for the children of others.

We affirm the nurturing love of mothers, and the blessings of parenthood.

We pray for a society in which pregnancy is freely chosen, and mothers and children receive the care and support they need.

We affirm the sanctity of life and the moral agency of women.

We mourn the 1,500 women around the world who will die today in childbirth, or from the complications of pregnancy, because they lack basic health services.

We envision a world where childbirth is safe, and all children are wanted and loved.

Together, we break the silence surrounding women and their partners who suffer infertility, pregnancy loss, still births, and difficulties in adoption.

We bless them and hold them in love.

We celebrate the many ways that people create families and become mothers in our communities.

We call for a commitment to make every day Mother’s Day.

© Religious Institute, 2010, May 9


And this bulletin was read out loud:

Global Maternal Health

* Every minute, a woman dies in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications – at least half a million women worldwide every year.

* 99 percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing nations. More than half occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and one-third in South Asia.

* Most maternal deaths take place during labor, delivery or in the immediate post-partum period. More than 3.4 million newborns die within the first week of life.

* More than one million children are left motherless every year due to maternal deaths. Children are three to 10 times more likely to die within two years of the mother’s death.

* The leading cause of death for girls ages 15-19 worldwide is pregnancy.

* There is no single cause of death and disability for men that compares with the magnitude of maternal death and disability.

* Doubling current global investments in family planning and pregnancy-related health care (to approximately $24.6 billion) could save the lives of 400,000 women and 1.6 million infants every year.

The Rachel Sabbath Initiative: Saving Women’s Lives supports the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal 5, which focuses on improving maternal health. The Religious Institute calls on congregations across the country to raise awareness and support for the UN’s targets of reducing maternal mortality worldwide and achieving universal access to reproductive health care by 2015. This initiative is named for the matriarch Rachel, who died in childbirth (Gen. 35:16-20).

Religious Institute, 21 Charles Street, Suite 140, Westport, CT 06880. Join the Faithful Voices Network at


In an effort to spread the word that maternal health is important, the UU Church sorely misses the mark on the focus of adoption.

Here is what I AM ADDING to the above (in bold and italics):

We don’t have specific statistics, but for every adoptee there is a mother who gave birth. That mother suffers the loss of her child to adoption but society does not recognize nor acknowledge that loss. There are millions of childless mothers (because there are at least 6 to 7 million adoptees in America) who grieve for the loss of their babies and who dread Mother’s Day because they were made feel shame and guilt for even being a mother in the first place. We must practice Adoption Prevention.


A Responsive Reading for Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day, we honor mothers and caregivers everywhere – women who have given birth, women who have adopted children, women who care for the children of others.  We also honor mothers who have lost their infants to unwanted relinquishment to the adoption industry by resolving to end this practice of taking other mothers’ children as our own.


We affirm the sanctity of life and the moral agency of women.

We mourn the 1,500 women around the world who will die today in childbirth, or from the complications of pregnancy, because they lack basic health services. We mourn the countless women around the world who suffer the moral indignation of disrespecting the pregnancies and infant births by the unwanted snatching of their infants at the moment of birth at Crisis Pregnancy Centers and Birthing Rooms that allow adopting couples to witness the sacred moment of birth, and mothers who are victims of Open Adoption scams and Open Adoption Agencies. We mourn the scorn still inflicted upon young teens and young women who are not married and humiliated into giving up their wanted babies because society tells them they cannot parent their own children.


We envision a world where childbirth is safe, and all children are wanted and loved.

Together, we break the silence surrounding women and their partners who suffer infertility, pregnancy loss, still births, and difficulties in adoption. Difficulties in adopting other women’s children? We break the silence that women who desperately want their children are taken advantage of by the cruelty of the adoption industry — women who want their children ought to not suffer their children ripped from their arms into the waiting arms of adopting parents. If and only IF a child does not have caring parents is GUARDIANSHIP NOT ADOPTION ever a substitute for motherhood. In cases of abuse and neglect, removing a child from harm is best, but working toward reunification and stabilization of that family unit is primary to the wholeness of that mother and her children.


We bless them and hold them in love.

We celebrate the many ways that people create families and become mothers in our communities. We celebrate to every mother the right to be mothers in life, and to be named on their child’s birth certificate, not dishonored by sealing and falsifying that document. This means that we honor the facts of birth by issuing ONLY 1 true Certificate of Live Birth and strive for the abolition of the amended birth certificate in adoption; such a document is a mockery of motherhood. Ultimately we strive for the abolition of adoption itself for every mother who gives birth and who wants her child needs to be a mother and every child needs their mother. For adoptive mothers everywhere, we strive for the acceptance that the role of raising children can be handled by a caregiver who is a guardian who does not usurp the dignity of another mother by taking her child.


I have no choice but to accept that I have two mothers: one by birth and one by adoption. My lesson learned from my life lived in this reality is to strive for a better world in which the sanctity of motherhood is respected everywhere on this planet. What might appear to be harsh to the adoptive mothers out there is actually a plea: stop trying to own someone else’s child and if you must fulfill your desire to be in a parenting role, be a guardian and not an adoptive mother. A guardian respects that child’s identity and true mother. Adoption, by its very nature, disrespects both the child and her natural mother by destroying the natural mother-child bond. Caring and love in a parenting role can be achieved by guardianship. Offended? I am offended that my life as the daughter of my mother who died in my infancy was not honored nor respected because of the all-almighty power of adoption.

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.

PS — See this post: Happy Birthmother Day or Happy Adopter Day; and this quote from AustinHolistic : Which makes me think, if a woman wants her child, we need to provide emotional support, financial support, and psychological support for women who want their children: and this post with this quote: There is no paradox, no contradiction and certainly no upside in having been on the loosing end of the adoption exchange.





There is No Rational Explanation for Coercion to Give up a Baby for Adoption

This blog entry is a response to reading Cedar’s blog post: Adoption Practice: “What is coercion?”

Many years ago I was the only adoptee rooming with a half dozen mothers-of-adoption-loss in a hotel room. They were surprised at my support for them, saying that adoptees were hostile to them because of being given away, but I wasn’t hostile to them.

Maybe it was because I before I entered into adoption awareness in 1974 I was introduced to feminist thought in 1971. I was 15 at the time. Womanhood came first and with that came the understanding of what it means to be able to carry life within and the struggle to gain independence from men. So, I understood womanhood long before I was thrown into shock at being found by siblings I was never supposed to know.

So, when I hear of women’s voices telling of what actually took place for them, I believe them.

It is a great burden to have reunion thrust upon an 18 year old who was raised in a sheltered life. My upbringing lead me into believing that sex before marriage was a sin, and was bad, that pregnant teens were, well, you know. That was what I was forced-fed in home and at school and at church. The cognitive dissonance really hit me in 1971 when Canada Jane came into my life. She was a beautiful traveler who had a perspective that was so unlike what I had been taught. Her freedom of self lifted me out of the holds of suppression. And she did it through poetry and photography.

So I am female first and adoptee second. And, the experience of being a real bastard is not mine so when I hear (rather heard in the past) adoptees speak of rage at being abandoned or given away, I did not experience abandonment in the same way. I knew my mother was not a teenage mother. She was not a “tramp”. She was not a seductress nor was she seduced. She was a wife and mother of four other children at the time of my conception, gestation and birth. My mother was nothing less than my mother in the full sense of the word. My father was nothing less than my father in the full sense of the word.

I knew these points instinctively at the moment I was found and heard my sister’s voice on the other end of the phone. When I met my father for the first time and developed a relationship with him, he was my father, he was not some sperm donor or a cad or a womanizer or a creep. He was my father.

My father was talked into giving me up for adoption. His experience in relinquishment is different from that of a mother. Mothers and pregnancy and giving birth are a different experience. But from his perspective as the husband of a pregnant wife, and the father of four children expecting the fifth in the mid 1950s, well, he was the breadwinner, the paycheck, the head of the household. It was his responsibility to take care of us all, to pay for us to provide for us. We were all dependent upon him.

When my father was faced with a pregnant wife who was violently ill, he was frightened. He did not think that the baby has to go, he thought that this was his family and he had to figure out how to fix it all. Illness made his wife go into pre-term labor. She delivered her infant two months too soon on the hospital bed before the nurses could get there. A few weeks before that, she was X-rayed to determine why she was so sick. A massive tumor filled her abdomen along side of the “fetus” who was guessed to be five months at that time. The tumor was real but the age of the “fetus” was wrong. When I was born the doctor determined I was 32 weeks of gestational age; a real feat of birth and survival in those primitive days of 1956.

I survived my mother’s cancer. I survived a premature birth. I survived six weeks in an incubator. My mother died. My father was stressed. Instead of help all he got was talk. The baby needs two parents. The baby? The baby was part of the whole family. The five children needed two parents, but the reality was that the mother died and the whole family needed help to cope with that loss. But no help was given. Just convince the father that the baby, alone, needed two parents. Make him believe he was not worthy to be the real father of his own daughter… make him believe that the only solution was to give her up permanently to another couple so she could lead a better life without him or her siblings.

I say that my widowed father was coerced into giving up his youngest child to adoption. And for that, he was crucified and his given-up daughter was both smothered in love by her adoptive parents and isolated by them. Stockholm syndrome is the better name for what I feel for my adoptive parents for I have those 18 years of a bliss or happiness of childhood gooiness. Yeah right. How do I justify the sad feelings I have for the father who died in 1982 when I see his picture playing with me as a one year old on the floor with the reality that he knowingly and willfully kept me apart from my own siblings for his sake of raising a child of his own? How do I justify the sad feelings I have to recall those happy times when Mom sewed those matching mother-daughter-doll dresses when she wanted me to grow up as she dreamed I would to fulfill her visions of the daughter she called her own? Did I have any rights or feelings? How did these two people justify within themselves what they were doing to me and to my siblings and to my father? How did they justify taking a child away from her family so they could call me their own?

Coercion is just that. There is no rational explanation.  

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.