My Baby Bracelet Found Again


My adoptive mother died a few months ago. I have been slowly going through her belongings. Deciding what to keep and what to give away is a very difficult task.

I had already generally gone through a box of my mother’s old jewelry and set it aside for the “give away” pile. But a relative who was with me took a second look. She found a small plastic bag with a string of beads. She pulled it out and said, “This looks like a baby bracelet.”

I immediately swung around as my relative placed the beaded bracelet in my hands. I recognized the initials and last name as that of my natural mother. The beads were pink; this was my baby bracelet worn in the hospital after my birth.

How could I have missed this when going through the box the first time?

More importantly, why was this the first time I had seen this bracelet? My adoptive mother kept it in her jewelry box since bringing me home on April 22, 1956, four months after my birth. My natural father had given her this bracelet, along with my clothes and birth certificate and baptismal certificate. Why did my adoptive mother keep this bracelet all these years? She surely could have given it to me during the course of my reunion with my natural family from 1974 onward. But I discovered it and reclaimed it a few months after her death.

This is yet another reminder that for all I know about my birth and my adoption I shall never really know my life. I was a baby born to a dying mother; I was dying at birth. The conditions and events that surrounded the people who took care of me, especially my natural father, were tense. My future hung in the balance until my mother died. Nearly a month later, my father handed me to another couple to raise as their daughter. I grew up the only child of this couple. My former life ceased to exist.

I hold this bracelet now as a mere portion of my life before adoption. Those six weeks I lay in an incubator, clinging to life: this is what this bracelet symbolizes for me. It’s not my name on the bracelet, it’s my mother’s name, for I am my mother’s daughter and this is the way the hospital knew I belonged to her. My birth and those first few weeks of my life were not happy moments.

As I clear through the belongings of one mother recently deceased, I am reminded of another mother who died long ago. Her death changed the course of my life.

My baby bracelet brought me, not a moment of happiness, but a day of mourning a lifetime of loss.

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?

Study Confirms: Fathers Suffer Postpartum Depression

Considering that my natural father had a family of four children with one on the way when it was discovered through x-rays that his pregnant wife had a large abdominal tumor, I’d say that he had more than his share of stress in the few weeks leading up to my birth. After my premature birth, I spent the next six weeks in an incubator while my mother lay dying. Nearly one month later, my mother died.

What father would not experience depression under these circumstances?

Toss in to the equation his decision to relinquish his newborn daughter to adoption and there is a real mess of emotions.

There has never been a day or a moment during my reunion with my father that I ever blamed him for my relinquishment. Expressing my anger and feelings of abandonment, yes, I did that. Expressing my sadness, yes, yes, I did that. Did he truly abandon me? No, I don’t believe he did. It feels as though he did and that is a problem for many parents of adoption loss to understand about their adopted-out offspring.

But that’s not the point here.

The reason I never blamed my father is that, even at age 18, when I first met him, I instinctually knew he lived through horrendous circumstances at a time when a father should be happy. My birth was not a happy occasion.

Radical acceptance of the circumstances surrounding my birth and relinquishment is all I can do. I can’t fully understand, but I can empathize.  

Under normal circumstances, a father does, indeed, suffer postpartum depression, so confirms a new study. Here is the article in its entirety:

Study Finds Dads Suffer Postpartum Depression

by Joanne Silberner

May 18, 2010

While it’s been widely known that some mothers suffer from postpartum depression, a series of studies over the years have suggested that new fathers may become depressed after childbirth, too.

Now an analysis of 43 earlier studies validates the fathers’ experiences with statistics. About 10 percent of men whose partners are having babies suffer depression during the time period ranging from three months before the baby is born through the baby’s first birthday. That’s twice the usual rate of depression in men, and it’s in the same range as postpartum depression in women.

The riskiest period for the father is when the baby is 3 to 6 months old, according to the study, which is published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study’s conclusion is well supported, says Gregory Simon, a psychiatrist with Group Health Research Institute, a nonprofit in Seattle, and likely to be a surprise to men and to many health care professionals.

“The traditional thinking was postpartum depression among women was related to hormonal changes,” he says. But both he and study author James Paulson of the Eastern Virginia Medical School say this theory is not completely nailed down. And this study puts some pressure on researchers to figure out what exactly is going on.

A lot of fathers, as well as medical professionals, don’t recognize paternal depression as a problem. “I think that part of that has to do with the belief that most people believe that depression in women is caused by hormone changes,” says Paulson.

Debunking The Myth

Pregnancy-related depression comes as a surprise to most men it hits. Psychologist Will Courtenay of Berkeley, Calif., has made a career of helping men with depression and maintains the website He says there’s a myth in this country that men don’t get depressed, and that’s a danger.

“The cultural myth that men don’t get depressed also communicates to men that they shouldn’t get depressed — or at least, not express it. And so they don’t. They’re more likely than women to try to hide their depression or to talk themselves out of it,” he says.

That’s what Joel Schwartzberg, 41, a producer with PBS, did. “Before my son was born, I had expectations of joy,” he says. “I thought I would sail through the whole process. But it was like a wrecking ball on my life.”

Schwartzberg was sad, dejected and irritable. He started eating and gained about 10 pounds. He eventually came out of it, but not before the stress led to the end of his marriage. He wrote about his experience in Newsweek in the hopes of letting other fathers know they’re not alone.

The Stress Of Parenting

There are lots of things that can be affecting fathers just like they might affect mothers, says study author Paulson. “Going from being a single person to a parent is a real shock,” he says. “And certainly both parents trying to cope with a big change in life can be stressful.”

There’s the financial stress of having a child. And Paulson speculates that the spike in depression when the baby hits 3 months of age may be due to having both parents back at work as parental leave ends.

And of course, there’s the sleep disruption that goes along with parenting. “Sleep disruption and sleep deprivation is a risk factor for depression, and sleep deprivation among new parents is the norm,” says psychiatrist Simon.

Paulson warns against ignoring the signs of depression in fathers. “There’s evidence growing that depression in fathers is negative for children and increases the risk of emotional and behavioral problems,” he says.

But there’s help for new fathers who are hurting. Treatment options include talk therapy, group counseling and drug treatment — or just open and frank discussion within the family.

And the new study may help by raising awareness about the issue, says Simon, so that new mothers know their partners may be having problems, so men know to seek help, and so health care professionals recognize the symptoms.