I Shouldn't Tell Mom How Often I Think About My First Mom


Because tomorrow is Mother’s Day, this chapter is extremely applicable. Mother’s Day can be challenging for adoptees and foster kids. Perhaps this chapter will give you as parents a tool to talk about feelings and perspectives.

I realize the popular term now for birth mother is first mother, so apologies sent. This workbook was published back in the day:-)

The Scripture Base for Moses’ Life

Exodus 2:16-23

16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock. 

 18 When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?” 

 19 They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 

 20 “And where is he?” Reuel asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.” 

 21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.” 

 23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. 

The Story of Moses 

On his way to the backside of the desert to a place called Midian, Moses met and then married a woman named Zipporah. She bore him a son, and Moses named him Gershom, which means, “I have become an alien in a foreign land” (v. 22). 

In this new life as a married man and father, Moses became a shepherd for his father-in-law, Jethro. Needless to say, it was a cultural shock going from a pampered life in a palace to tending sheep in the hills of Midian. 

While tending sheep, he could slip away into a state of fantasy. At times he would imagine himself being rescued and loved by a strong, compassionate person. At other times, he envisioned himself as a member of a happy family gathered around the fireside, laughing and singing. 

Sooner or later, however, the euphoria from the fantasies turned into disappointment, frustration and anger. Even though the happy family and nurturing person were within sight through fantasy, they were just out of reach in real life. 

Moses had no idea that he was subconsciously grieving for the family he lost at adoption. One evening when Moses was deep in thought, bright orange flames illuminated the sky. For the first time in his life, his attention was drawn away from the fantasy to a power greater than his pain.

How Moses Saw God 

Moses probably knew only about dead Egyptian gods that he had been taught about in his adoptive home. He had no idea that there was a living God who was drawing him into a personal relationship. He had come face to face with Jehovah-Shammah, the God who makes his presence real and felt. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and him with me” (Revelation 3:20b). 

How You See God

Please refer to the list of Names for Jesus in Scripture in Appendix B and list three to five names for God that stand out to you. It will be encouraging to look back when finished with the workbook and see how your perception has grown!

You can record your words here:


How Other Adoptees Feel 

My Fantasy

The non-identifying information fact sheet tells me,

as I scan it for the millionth time

for the answers to my questions,

that reading, golf, and water-skiing

were their hobbies.

The irony of it,

for they are mine as well.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to share just one

sun-soaked afternoon on the lake

with my knight in shining armor,

and the woman whose face I search for in a crowd? 

–Amy van der Vleit, adoptee

I was growing without a foundation—a tree without roots. I felt alienated and as I grew, so did my need to know. I often envisioned my biological father as a princely figure, a charming knight in shining armor who could solve any problem I ever had. As I continued through life, I pushed these thoughts to the back of my consciousness, yet still he found his way into my dreams. In one particularly vivid dream, we were in a peaceful green meadow with tall grass and multi-colored flowers. This is what I envision heaven to be. He was on one side of a small wooden fence, I on the other. I could not distinguish the features on his face, but he was tall and blonde, like an angel.

–Tammy Kling, adoptee 

I never thought I would meet him first. I thought it would be her, the beautiful phantom Barbie doll who stole my hidden fantasies and my darkest nightmares. But in the end, it was my biological father who became real first—the shadowy, formless life-giver whom I, as an adopted child, rarely thought of. My defenses wrote him off as a classic gun-and-run teenage father. I assumed he simply would have farmed me out to grandmothers or aunts for raising, had he nabbed custody.

–Tamara Kerrill , adoptee

I have had difficulty bringing my birth mother down to earth. I have loved her and hated her, but she has always lived above the clouds. Everyone’s mother initially resides with the gods, but she usually comes down to earth when the weather clears. Repression has a way of keeping the weather inclement. Also, one more reluctantly leaves a goddess if he has never lived with her…we search more for our image of the person we have lost than for the actual person.

–Second Choice autobiography by Robert Anderson, M.D., adoptee 

“I always liked TV shows oriented toward the ideal family. In fact, I got obsessed with them. I was looking for loving, caring parents that I made up in my mind. I fantasized about my birth mother. She lived in a brick home, but had no face.”

–Greg Ebert, adoptee

Check the statements which are most meaningful to you and explain why on the lines that follow: 

  • I need to be able to verbalize my fantasies. 
  • My deepest fantasy is to be held in my birth mother’s arms. 
  • I don’t know if I have adoption fantasies. 
  • I have always feared that my birth mother would be a bag lady. 
  • I need to learn that fantasy is a normal aspect of an adoptee’s emotional life. 
  • I need to know that I need not feel guilty for having adoption fantasies, for without them, the pain would have been unbearable. 


Learning about Adoption 

Adopted children spend an exorbitant amount of psychic time in fantasy. They may seem to be sitting quietly in their rooms, or just looking out the window, when really they are deep in the Ghost Kingdom imagining scenarios that might have been or still might be…These fantasies are not just the passing fancies with which most people empower themselves at various periods of their lives but actual reality for the adoptee’s inner, secret self. They are the mother replacement: the comfort zone that the mother did not provide. They serve the function of the surrogate rag doll that experiential monkeys are given after their real mother has been taken away. They are also a form of grieving, of conjuring up the lost mother, in the same way that children grieving for lost parents are known to conjure up their ghosts. Adoptee fantasies serve a different purpose from those of the non-adopted: they are an attempt to repair one’s broken life-narrative, to dream it along.

–Journey of the Adopted Self by Betty Jean Lifton

Putting My Feelings and Needs into Words 

  1. Have you idealized certain men or women (mentors, teachers, priests, rabbis, pastors, parents of friends)? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
  2. What are your expectations for yourself and for others?


  1. Do you have any repetitive nightmares? If so, describe. 


  1. Do people tend to disappoint you? When? How? 


  1. Are you ever so deep in thought that you miss turns while you are driving? If so, describe. 


  1. Is there anyone with whom you feel comfortable sharing your fantasies? If not, who would be a possibility? 


  1. Many adoptees say that their deepest fantasy is to be held in their birth mothers’ arms. Do you identify with this? If so, how do you think it would be? If not, what is your deepest adoption fantasy? 


  1. Draw a picture with your left hand of what you think it would be like to have never been adopted and to have grown up with your birth family. Then explain it to the person you are working through this workbook with, if you feel comfortable doing so. 

Writing a Letter TO and FROM my Birth Mother

  • Write a letter TO your birth mother, describing fantasies (dreams) about what she is like.
  • Write a letter of response FROM your birth mother, revealing what you think her deepest fantasies would be about you and how you think she would respond to your fantasies about her.

 Letters TO and FROM My Birth Mother


Digging Deep for Answers to my Adoption Questions 

  1. Read Philippians 4:19…”And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” What does God promise to do with the gaping hole in your heart that causes you to fantasize? 


  1. What does God promise will happen if you trust him to heal you from the need to have adoption fantasies? See Psalm 22:5…”To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.”


  1. How will your life change this week as a result of working through this chapter? 


Thoughts, Insights, Goals and Prayers 



As adoptees, we need not be ashamed of the adoption fantasies we have entertained about the perfect family or parent. They were God’s gift to keep us safe from unbearable pain until we were ready to deal with the grief.

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“Algunas Veces Tengo Fantasías Sobre mi Familia de Nacimiento”

Éxodo 2
La Historia de Moisés

Durante su jornada en el desierto hacia un lugar llamado Madián, Moisés conoció y luego se casó con una mujer llamado Séfora. Ella le dio un hijo y Moisés lo llamo Guersón, que quiere decir “Soy un extranjero en tierra extraña.”

En su nueva vida como hombre casado y padre, Moisés trabajó como pastor para su suegro, Jetro. Sin embargo era un cambio cultural en su vida, de ser un hombre rico en un palacio a la de un pastor cuidando ovejas en las colinas de Madián.

Mientras Moisés estaba cuidando ovejas, podía pasar el rato en un estado de fantasía. Algunas veces, se imaginaba a el mismo siendo rescatado y amado por una persona fuerte y compasiva. Otras veces, el se veía a si mismo como miembro de una familia feliz reunida alrededor de una fogata, riendo y cantando.

Tarde o temprano, entonces, ésta euforia acerca de las fantasías se volvió en engaño, frustración y enojo. Aún cuando ésta familia feliz y la persona que lo crió estaban vistos el la fantasía, estaban fuera de su alcance en la vida real.


Moisés no tenia idea que inconscientemente estaba de luto por la familia que el perdió en por su adopción.

Una noche cuando Moisés estaba pensando profundamente, una llama de color naranja brillante ilumino el cielo. Por primera vez en su vida, su atención cambió de la fantasía hacia un poder más grande que su dolor.

Como Moisés Vio a Dios

Probablemente Moisés sabia solamente de los dioses Egipcios muertos que le enseñaron en su hogar adoptivo. El no tenia idea que había un Dios vivo quien lo estaba llamando a una relación personal. El llegó cara a cara con Jehová-Shammah, El Dios que hace su presencia real y que se siente. “Si alguno oye mi voz y abre la puerta, entraré, y comeré con él, y él conmigo.” (Apocalipsis 3:20b).

Como Sienten Otros Hijos Adoptivos

Mi Fantasía Amy van der Vleit

La hoja de hechos no identificados me dice, Mientras la escaneo por la millonésima vez Por la respuestas a mis preguntas, Que leer, jugar golf y esquiar en el agua Eran sus pasatiempos.
La ironía de esto,
Es que también son mis pasatiempos ¿No sería hermoso a compartirpage41image1646614429

solamente una
Tarde llena del sol sobre un lago Con mi caballero y su armadura brillante Y la mujer a quien busco su cara Entre las multitudes?

“Yo estaba creciendo sin cimiento – un árbol sin raíces. Me sentí enajenado y mientras crecía, también creció mi necesidad a saber. Frecuentemente tengo visiones de mi padre biológico como un príncipe, un caballero encantador con su armadura brillante, quien resolvería cualquier problema que yo pudiera tener. Al continuar con mi vida, fui empujando estos pensamientos al fondo de mi consciencia, sin embargo, el encontró su camino en mis sueños. En un sueño particularmente intenso, estábamos en una pradera verde, llena de paz con pasto alto y flores de muchos colores. Así es como yo imagino al Paraíso. El estaba de un lado de una cerca de madera y yo del otro lado. Yo no pude distinguir los facciones de su cara pero el era alto y rubio, como un ángel.”

-Tammy Kling
“Yo nunca pensé que lo conocería a el primero. Pensé que iba a ser a ella, a la hermosa fantasma muñeca Barbie que robó mis fantasías escondidas y mis pesadillas más obscuras. Pero al final, era mi padre biológico quien se hizo real. La vivificante sombra, sin forma en quien yo, como un hijo adoptivo, raramente pensaba. Mis defensas lo clasifican como un clásico padre adolescente irresponsable. Si hubiera tenido custodia de

mi, me hubiera regalado a sus abuelos o tías para criarme.”

-Tamara Kerrill

Robert Anderson, MD, en su autobiografía, Segunda Elección escribe, “Yo siempre he tenido dificultades para colocar a mi madre de nacimiento con sus pies en la tierra. La he amado y odiado, pero ella siempre ha vivido arriba de las nubes. La madre de cada uno vive inicialmente con los dioses, pero ella normalmente baja a la tierra cuando el clima es bueno. La represión actúa de una manera para mantener siempre un clima inclemente. También, uno no esta dispuesto a dejar a una diosa si nunca ha vivido con ella…buscamos mas por una imagen de la persona que hemos perdido que por la persona actual”.

“Siempre me gustaron los programas del televisión orientado a la familia ideal. De hecho, me obsesioné con ellos. Siempre buscando unos padres amorosos y cariñosos que fabriqué en mi mente. Yo tenía fantasías sobre mi madre de nacimiento. Ella vivía en una casa de ladrillos, pero no tenia cara.”

-Greg Ebert

  • Necesito poder verbalizar mis fantasías.
  • Mi fantasía mas profundo es de estar en los brazos de mI madre denacimiento.
  • No se si tengo fantasías de adopción.
  • Siempre he tenido el miedo que mi madre de nacimiento sea una mujerque viva en la calle.


• Necesito aprender que la fantasía es un aspecto normal de la vida emocional de un hijo adoptivo.

• Necesito saber que no me necesito sentir culpable por tener fantasías sobre la adopción, porque sin ellas, el dolor sería insoportable.

1. ¿Con cuales de los frases de arriba te identificas y porque?





Aprendiendo Sobre la Adopción

Betty Jean Lifton, en su libro Jornada del Ser Adoptivo, escribe, “Hijos adoptivos gasten un cantidad exorbitante de tiempo psíquico en la fantasía. Puede parecer que están quietos sentados en su cuarto o solamente viendo por la ventana, cuando realmente están profundamente en su Reino Fantasma imaginando escenarios que pudieron haber o todavía pueden ser. Estas fantasías no son solamente ideales pasajeros en los cuales la gente se fortifica en varios periodos de su vida, son la realidad actual para el ser interno y secreto del hijo adoptivo. Estas fantasías son el emplazamiento de su madre: la zona confortable que la madre no le dió. Tienen la función de la muñeca de trapos que dan a los changos en experimentos después que les han quitado a sus madres reales. También son una forma de duelo, de conjurar a la madre perdida. En la misma manera que hijos en luto por sus padres perdidos conjuran a sus fantasmas. Las fantasías de hijos adoptivos tienen un propósito diferente que las de los hijos que no son adoptivos: Las fantasías de los hijos adoptivos son un intento de reparar la narrativa de su vida interrumpida, para hacerlas un sueño.


Poniendo Mis Sentimientos y Necesidades en Palabras







¿Has idealizado ciertos hombres o mujeres? (guías, maestros, sacerdotes, Rabinos, pastores, padres de amigos)





¿Cuáles son tus expectativas para a ti mismo y para los demás? __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

¿Tienes algunas pesadillas repetidas? Si es así, descríbelas. __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

¿La gente tienda a desilusionarte? ¿Cuándo? ¿Cómo? __________________________________________________________________

¿Algunas veces estás pensando tan profundamente que equivocas el lugar donde dar la vuelta cuando estas manejando un coche? Si es así descríbelo. __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

¿Hay alguien con quien te sientes cómodo para compartir tus fantasías? Si no, ¿quien sería una posibilidad? __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________


  1. Muchos hijos adoptivos dicen que su fantasía mas profunda es estar en los brazos de su madre. ¿Te identificas con esto? Si es así, ¿Cómo piensas que sería? Si no ¿Cuál es tu fantasía mas profunda acerca de la adopción? __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________
  2. Haz un dibujo con tu mano izquierda de como piensas que sería el hecho de nunca haber sido adoptado y de haber crecido con tu familia de nacimiento. Después explícalo a la persona con quien estas trabajando en esta manual, solamente si te sientes cómodo.

Escribiendo Una Carta a Mi Madre de Nacimiento

1. Escribe una carta PARA tu madre de nacimiento, describiendo tus fantasías (Sueños) sobre como es ella.








2. Escribe una carta de respuesta DE tu madre de nacimiento revelando lo que piensas que serían sus fantasías mas profundas acerca de ti y como piensas que ella contestaría a tus fantasías acerca de ella. ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________


Profundizando a Fondo para las Respuestas a mis Preguntas Sobre Adopción.

1. Lee Filipenses 4:19 ¿Qué es lo que Dios promete hacer con ese hoyo adentro de tu corazón que te causa fantasear? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

2. ¿Qué es lo que Dios promete que pasará si tienes fe en que El te sanará de la necesidad de tener fantasías sobre la adopción? Ver Salmo 22:5






3. ¿Cómo va a cambiar tu vida ésta semana como resultado de completar éste capitulo?




Pensamientos, Percepciones, Metas y










Como hijos adoptivos, no necesitamos tener vergüenza de las fantasías que hemos tenido sobre la adopción y de la familia o padre perfecto. Ellos eran un regalo de Dios para salvarnos de un dolor insoportable hasta que estuvimos listos a enfrentarlos. Porque hemos gastados tiempo en la fantasía, podemos estar confundidos sobre nuestra identidad. Vamos hablar acerca de esto en el siguiente capitulo.

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How Can Adoptees Grow In Self Awareness?

Who’s That Little Girl, Anyway?

Imagine being given an assignment to find someone you’ve never met, but someone with whom you have an unknown connection. 

The person you’re searching for is a female toddler who lives in a bungalow on a prestigious, tree-lined street. She’ll be sitting on the porch steps alone. 

 “Who’s that little girl, anyway?” you may ask yourself. Why am I searching for her?

There are mysteries surrounding this child that you must solve, even if it takes decades. 

Mysteries such as the soldier who walked by her house daily, peering in, like he’s searching for someone. Or, the superintendent of records who kept her hospital records sealed permanently.

There is much shame and pain that this child endured before being adopted. When you solve the mysteries, her life will transform from being nameless to shameless. 

Beneath the complexities surrounding her birth were threads of the divine that were always present, but not visible. Always in the details, but no one would remember. Always faithful, but not obvious.

Don’t worry, my friend. You’ll know this child the moment you see her. She’ll be donned in a pink collared dress, a ruffled bonnet, well-worn white high-top leather shoes, and saggy lace stockings. 

The clincher is that she’ll be holding her rag doll close to her heart. Embed that scene in your long-term memory, for the doll is the key for unlocking the message of comfort that you’ll communicate when the child becomes an adult.

You must be aware that she’s not the biological child of her parents, Retha and Mike, who adopted her ten days after birth. You must also know that she was a failure-to- thrive baby with special emotional and physical needs, such as sensory and learning issues.  

Early in life, her parents told her she was adopted.  As an adult, this child remembered hearing her story for the first time on the dark green French-knotted couch in the living room. 

Sharon was the name they chose, with the middle name of Lee, after her adoptive grandmother named Leah.  Little did her parents know that this  Biblical name would take on significance later in life.

Leah was a bucksome, high-spirited social worker for the county, who single-handedly operated the County Children’s home. Abandoned and abused children hoped to find refuge there.  

No one could have ever imagined that the friendships Sharon experienced in this County Children’s Home would prepare her for her life’s work in the field of adoption and foster care. 

Could That Little Girl Be My Patient?

When a county physician contacted Leah about the possibility of helping a distraught pregnant woman named Marjorie, she agreed. 

Apparently, the woman needed shelter in a local birth mother’s home until her delivery three months later.

Marjorie wanted nothing more than to put the unplanned pregnancy behind her. This certainly would be a closed chapter and a wise move toward saving her marriage. If her husband found out she was carrying a baby that wasn’t his, he’d insist on abortion.   

The next day, Leah consulted with the physician and Marjorie, a beautiful, dark-haired woman in her early twenties. Within 30 short minutes, she claimed rape by a stranger, and refused to reveal the man’s identity. 

There would be absolutely no contact with the baby after delivery- no verbal comunication of the baby’s sex and total privacy about her hospital stay. 

When labor began, Marjorie contacted Leah and the physician, who met her at the hospital. After the last push, Marjorie was drugged and wheeled away, never to be reminded of her baby again, or so she thought.

The daughter she left behind felt something warm dripping on her newborn chest. Something wet. Something comforting. Something sacred. It was the physician’s tears.

No one would know this until many years later when the physician’s granddaughter revealed that he wept at the birth of every baby he delivered, and that he was an orphan himself.

Years later, the baby, now grown, would write about those tears.

Warm tears landed on my newborn body, like a spring rain. 

 I wanted to feel them forever.

To my once-orphaned delivery doctor, life was something to be celebrated, to shed happy tears over.

I couldn’t wait to feel his tears again.

What was it about those tears that soaked into my soul?

Were they saturated with hope and comfort? Were they bright lights at the end of the traumatic tunnel of living my first nine months of life in the womb of a mother who fantasized abortion? Or, were they seeds, planted in secret to produce a great harvest later in life?

Whatever it was, I wanted more.

Orphan doctor held me up, gazed into my big brown eyes, and smiled.

My five-pound body relaxed in his big, soft hands, like a hammock on a summer’s day. I wanted to stay there forever and gaze at the clouds.

But then, the nurse bent close to the orphan-doctor’s ear and whispered something.  

Orphan doctor’s eyes pooled with tears, again.

What did she whisper?

Was there something wrong with me?

Was I ugly?

Was I too little?

Is that why she suddenly whisked me off to a dimly-lit room where pleading and  plaintiff  newborn cries hovered, like smog in LA?

Where were those large, gentle hands that first touched my five-pound body?

Where were the warm tears that celebrated my life and birth?

Where was the orphan doctor, who welcomed me to planet earth with tears?

Then, the nurse shoved me into a box of glass. I kicked and screamed bloody murder.  

I cried and cried, but the sounds bounced back, like ping pong balls.

Where is the orphan doctor?

Why doesn’t he come?

And, so I give up and go inside. It’s safe there.

Thus, the orphan doctor wouldn’t appear again in the hospital, but stopped by every week for a year to see how Baby Sharon was doing.

Could That Little Girl Be My Granddaughter?

After saying goodbye to Marjorie at the hospital, Leah wondered, “Who’s that little girl, anyway?” Who’s this precious little life that hasn’t even been given a name?  

There was something about this newborn that convinced Leah she was going to be her grandmother. Her dark hair, her olive skin, her tinyness, her need for a family and a forever home. 

The scene of the attending nurse wrapping the newborn in soft blankets and placing her in an incubator stressed Leah. And, when the nurse placed a sign that said, “Baby X”, she couldn’t hold the tears back.

Retha and Mike lived just a block from the hospital, so she drove her big black Buick onto their gravel driveway and eagerly knocked at the front door. As usual, she could see them run to meet her through the three little door windows.

With bated breath, she relayed the story about the precious newborn that needed parents and a home.

Retha and Mike said yes. 

Could That Little Girl  Be Me?

Now, I’m going to reveal my total weirdness to you. It may sound way out to you, and that’s fine. It may have innuendos of “inner child” work which I’ve deemed ridiculous for years. Or, it may help you to see the healing process of one adopted adult.

You see, friend, right there in my closet when choosing clothes for the day, I saw something strange. There was a mother and daughter standing off to my left. The mother wasn’t moving, but the pathetic-looking child next to her couldn’t stop wiping the never-ending snot from her nose.

Drawing my chin to my chest and breathing deeply,  I concluded, “What an ugly kid. I’m sure glad she’s not in my life.” 

Then, I tried to process the weird experience. Could  the mom be my mom? Nope, no resemblance. Okay, was I the mom? Not a chance, for, my two daughters were never disheveled.

Oh, no.

Does that mean I’m that disgusting child? Could I really be that child?

And then, just like a megaphone, I heard, “Will you parent her?”

How repugnant. I felt nothing but aversion for this child. and even if she were the Moses of modern day floating in a basket on the Nile, I’d let the alligators eat her for lunch.

But, could this be my calling to parent this child? If it’s my calling, I don’t want it, nor her.

And, who exactly is this child?

I am.

 Deep inside, I am.

And the rag doll? 

Why am I holding it close to my heart?

Because the rag dolly got left behind.

She needs a new mommy and I will be her mommy. 

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Suggested Resource: 20 LIFE-TRANSFORMING CHOICES ADOPTEES NEED TO MAKE: https://sherrieeldridgeadoption.blog/shop

Adoptees Can Choose
Quite often, because of trauma, adoptees see themselves as victims. They need to learn to make choices that lead away from victimy thinking and onto their life purpose.

Will My Adoptive Parents Honor My First Parents?

Honoring First Parents Opens The Hearts of Adopted Children

The majority of parents don’t understand the parallels between their attitudes toward the first parents and their child’s receptivity to receive unconditional love. That’s why it’s vitally important to understand what I’ll call “the first parent factor.”

Let’s begin by getting some historical perspective on adoption and how relationships between adoptive parents and first parents evolved. Jayne Schooler, adoption expert and author gives us some historical context in Searching for a Past: The Adopted Adult’s Unique Process of Finding Identity.(p. 40) “In recent decades, adoption has served two addition functions—to meet the needs of couples whose dreams of a family were shattered by infertility and to provide a solution for birth parents who found themselves facing an unintended and untimely pregnancy. What emerged from the latter two functions of adoption during the middle decades of this century was an idealistic picture, one which characterized a perfect solution to a societal problem…What this ‘perfect solution’ created were myths that were safeguarded throughout the world of adoption.”

“Years ago,” according to Sharon Kaplan-Roszia, “myths were perpetuated through the adoption community. One myth taught those whose lives were touched by adoption that the most healthy attitude for all members of the adoption triad was to make a clean break. That meant no looking back—for anyone, forever.”

Closed Adoptions—Put the Past Behind and Pretend

A closed adoption, even though prevalent in the 1940—is still desirable by some today. In this arrangement, there is no contact whatsoever between the birth parents and adopters. Instead, there is an intermediary that facilitates the adoption, whether it be foreign government officials, local or national adoption agencies, or private attorneys and physicians. In the case of international adoptions, scanty, if any, information is given to the adopters by orphanage workers, not from mal intent, but because there is no information available. As Richard Fischer, adoptive dad and publisher of Adoptive Families Today, said, “All these kids come with one thing—a certificate of abandonment.” For those of us born domestically, we can get an amended birth certificate, but the only information we are given is “non-identifying information,” which means age of parents at birth, their occupation, place of birth, whether there were siblings. All other information is “whited out” on the original certificate, which then becomes officially sealed and legally unavailable to the adopted person. Even if an adoptee from a closed adoption is successful in securing the original birth certificate, there is still the matter of secrecy. For example, my birth mother put the name of her husband as father on my birth certificate, when he wasn’t the father. In the 1940’s, the blank for the father had to be filled in, so she must have put his name, to keep the name of my birth father a secret, which she still carries until this day.

When I speak to audiences, they are usually unaware that the majority of adoptees in this country, no matter what their ages, have sealed birth certificates, except in a growing number of States. They are appalled, as this is a basic right of every citizen.

Semi-Closed Adoptions–First Parent Connection Is Maintained from a Distance

This type of adoption is quite popular today. There is direct contact between the adopters and the birth family, with the adopters determining the parameters and boundaries. The parents may meet the birth parents at the birth or dedication ceremony, but after that, there is usually no physical contact. However, there still is openness and communication through gifts and cards. The subject of the birth family is usually not off limits, at least it shouldn’t be. Our granddaughter has always had a photo of her birth mother is her bedroom and she has a book made for her by her birth mother, telling her her favorite colors, activities, etc. One time my daughter went to her bedroom, only to find her older sister in the crib with her, reading her the book from her birth mother.

Open Adoptions—Adoptive Parents and First Parents Become Blended Family

These adoptions are becoming more prevalent today and involve and on-going, direct relationship between the adoptive family, the adopted child, and the first parents.

 When people ask me if I am in favor of open adoptions, I tell them three things. I know I am out of the mainstream of professionals in my opinion, but I look at it as an adopted person. I do believe that it can be wonderful, especially after reading the thoughts of James Gritter in the Spirit of Open Adoption. 

I do believe, however, that it takes four incredibly mature individuals (birth and adoptive parents) to pull it off, and that, with counseling and coaching from a qualified open adoption practitioner.

It is not the panacea for adoption, however, as many would like to believe. It doesn’t change the fact that the first parents have abdicated parental responsibilities, which is a loss for both them and the child. In addition, it doesn’t mean that the child isn’t going to have issues surrounding adoption. No, he won’t have to search for his first mother’s face in a crowd, but he will have to come to terms with why he has a “blended family.” 

From an adopted person’s perspective, it can put undue pressure on the child and rob him of the innocence of childhood. There is a seven-year-old adopted girl who was at a family gathering with both birth and adoptive family. Members of the extended adoptive family hadn’t yet met the birth relatives. The child, in an attempt to introduce the first aunt to the adoptive aunt, stopped short and asked what the word “first aunt” meant.

Even in a biological family, it is difficult for young children to understand how the two families merge to make a bigger family. Not long ago, our seven-year-old grandson asked me how I knew his other grandma.

Along the subject of enjoying one’s childhood, I am reminded of something our eight-year-old grandson said to me recently. When I told him that I couldn’t be in the sun because of health reasons, he declared that was the reason he didn’t want to get old! Then, he went on to say repeatedly, “I just LOVE being a kid.”

I know that’s what you want for your kids, too—to LOVE being a kid, to enjoy childhood to the fullest. That’s why I would like you to think deeply about this subject and what is best for your child and family. Take my perspective with a grain of salt, ask for wisdom about it from on high, and listen to other professionals before making the decision about what type of adoption you will pursue.


In this day and age, you were probably prepared well enough by your agency to realize that your child may want to search for his first parents someday.  Randolf Severson, author and therapist, describes the struggle within that you may encounter over the years: “Adoptive parents—some with joy and some with anguish—are awakening to the fact that roots, however twisted, are as vital to the leafing of a tree as is the gentle nurturing of the sun and rain.”  You may feel prepared for every question that may be posed in the years to come, but how will you really react when and if the time comes? 

Yet, in spite of this new awareness among adoptive parents, resistance to the subject still surprises me during talks with parents of adopted children. Let’s look at some of the reasons and perhaps your resistance level will go down. 

I’m Okay—I’m Prepared

Even the most mature and prepared parents find the first parent topic difficult. When a child announces it is time to search for the birth parents. You may have read all the books, prepared yourself in every way possible, yet when the time comes, you are reminded of your frailty and humanity in a big way.  Doris said, “When my daughter announced….we felt like we had been hit in the gut with a sledgehammer.” 

For nearly five years, a friend and I volunteered at Indiana University Hospital, to visit all new patients on a weekly basis. We visited patients from the top to the first floors, never knowing what to expect when we walked into a room. I’ve visited patients receiving bone marrow transplants, those receiving chemotherapy, and those that are one step from death.

Therefore, with this experience under my belt, when my elderly father’s physician called and told me to come quick, he was dying, I remember walking into the hospital and telling myself that I would be able to be “cool and calm” because of my prior experience. I still remember nearing his room in ICU. My knees started quivering and my hands were sweating profusely. Even though I was prepared in every way, when it became personal, I realized my humanity once again. We can do everything possible to prepare ourselves, but then we also must be gentle and forgiving with ourselves as well.

They’re Losers!

This is a difficult hurdle for parents to jump because they want to protect their child from further hurt. However, parents, it’s important to remember that there is a primal, DNA tie to those first parents that no abuse or neglect can sever.  A story is told of a toddler who was put in a hot, oiled frying pan by her mother. When he visited the child in the pediatric ICU, the mother came to visit. The child’s first reaction was to hold out her arms to the mother and cry “mama!”

I’m the “Real” Parent!

Traversing that narrow line between honoring the role of the first parent and the irresponsible behavior can be tricky. One mother describes her experience: “We have a closed adoption.  My husband and I have never met our daughter’s first parents.  She came into our home as a nine-month-old baby from foster care seven years ago.  I don’t understand her first parents’ choices – drugs, no prenatal care, a handful of visits, and ultimately leaving town without signing a single document.  It took us an additional nine months to adopt her because of their lack of communication with social services.     

Where Do They Get the Right to Be Called Parents?

My husband and I were faced with our feelings about her first parents just this week.  Our 2nd grade daughter was chosen to be “Star of the Week” at school.  A poster was to be made with pictures of her family and hobbies that interested her.  As Grace and I were cutting out the stars the teacher had printed, she said, “Mom, can I put a picture of my first parents on the poster?”  

I responded with, “Oh, honey, that’s private.”  Immediately my heart told me that was not right. We’ve always been open with her in how she came into our family and I didn’t want her to feel that her adoption story was a secret or something she should be ashamed about. And besides, the kids in her class had been asking her who her “real” parents were because she is Filipino and we are Caucasian.  So, I asked her some questions to see how comfortable she was in answering them.  

After thinking about it, she said she’d changed her mind, only to come back to me a couple of hours later saying that she really wanted their picture on the poster. My heart was in turmoil.  How did her birthparents earn the right to be on the poster?  Are they family?  

The answer came to me as my husband and I shared our feelings later that night.  First, their picture should be on there because that’s what Grace wanted.  Second, they are family.  If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have the joy of parenting our daughter.  And third, if by sharing the picture with her class helps our daughter’s growth process, it was worth putting aside our feelings.  

Through all the emotions my husband and I went through over a picture, what will it be like when she wants to meet them some day?  One step at a time.”

They’re a Non-Issue—We Adopted Internationally!

Many, not all, who choose international adoption are motivated by “the first parent factor.” If we adopt from abroad, there will be no history. There will be no first parents who change their minds after the adoption is finalized and come to get our child in the middle of the night, like little Jessica DeBoer.

One parent who adopted internationally says, “I was very glad in the beginning, that the likelihood of a parent ever contacting me was remote. That feeling started to dissipate in China, and I recall feeling overwhelmed with emotion as the plane lifted off the tarmac in Beijing, holding my daughter to the window, and telling her to say goodbye to China. Oh, goodbye to your birth country, your heritage, your first family, your ancestors, your language, your culture, the only place where you will ever feel in the majority—say goodbye to it all, because I wanted a daughter, and I could adopt you, so I did. Now, I realize it is NOT all about me, and it IS about my daughter. I would give anything to be able to fill that black hole of nothingness that is inside my daughter, where her first family should be. All I can do as her parent is to help her to bear the pain of the unknown, and deal with it in a way that will allow her to live a happy and productive life. I pray that I will be able to do this.”

What If She Runs Off with Them and Forgets Me?

During nine years of leading all-adoptee support groups, I have never seen an adopted person, no matter his or her age, search, reunite with the birth parents, and then say “ta, ta” to their mom and dad and run off with the first parents. They all return with a deepened appreciation and love for their parents.

What’s the Deal? Didn’t I Do A Good Enough Job?

An adult adoptee said, “My mama didn’t like me to ask much about my first mom. She couldn’t understand why I wanted to know about her. My daddy has always been much more accepting and open. When I was reunited with members of my first family, my mom fell to pieces and said it was because ‘she wasn’t a good enough mom and God was punishing her.’ I just want to belong.”


Parents, we’ve looked at some of the possible perspectives parents have about first parents. We’ve certainly seen our humanity! 

The Key for Communicating Unconditional Love to Your Child

I’d like to share another perspective with you that I believe will revolutionize your relationship with your child—choosing to openly show honor to your child’s first parents, no matter what their behavior or history. You choose to honor their role.

Why? Because your child is a part of them! Your child had her first conversation with her first mother during the last trimester in the pregnancy. Your child’s first home was her first mother’s womb. The DNA that helped determine your child’s personality and looks came from her first father.

To deny these wondrous facts is to say to your child that part of her is unspeakable, so bad, so unworthy, that we can’t talk about it.

The defining principle is: When you honor your child’s birth family, you honor your child. If you don’t honor her birth parents, she will secretly or unconsciously conclude that there is something terrible about her. In other words, you will be fostering shame, which I know is the last thing you desire. You want your child to feel unconditionally loved!

Here are some suggestions to get you started with honoring statements, which should begin from day one:

  • I am so glad your first mother and father gave you to us to love.
  • Your first parents must be wonderful people to have had such an awesome baby.
  • How I love your first parents for sharing you with us.
  • Your first mother and father must be incredible people!

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I Can't Believe I'm Pregnant. Maybe I Should Abort My Baby

Why Choose Adoption Over Abortion?

Just like the young woman in this photo, many face the decision about whether to choose adoption or abortion. If this would help someone you love, feel free to share.

  1. Any two people can make love, but only God can create a life.
  2. No matter what the circumstances surrounding the conception, the baby growing inside you belongs to God and was created by him for his purposes.
  3. God loves you and has a special plan for your life as well as your baby’s.
  4. Choosing abortion will result in endless grieving for the child you might have had. Parental loss of a child is particularly devastating grief. Motherhood does not end with abortion.
  5. You will likely spend a lot of energy keeping the abortion secret in the future, and will experience guilt, anger, unconscious fear of sex, tenseness and uneasiness around children and depression.
  6. This child is part of you. Choosing abortion instead of adoption will not only kill your baby, but also a vital part of you.
  7. You will place your very life at risk through the abortion procedure.
  8. You will jeopardize your ability to conceive again.
  9. You will long to hold the child for the rest of your life and will wonder what he/she may have looked like when you see another’s child at the same age yours would have been. You will have lost not only an infant, but also a preschooler, a teenager, a young adult and your grandchildren.
  10. You will secretly wonder what your child would have grown up to be.
  11. The child you are carrying, like all of us, deserves a right to have a chance at life.
  12. The institution of adoption has changed dramatically in the last few decades. There is now such a thing as open adoption, where an arrangement can be negotiated between both sets of parents (birth and adoptive) for the welfare of your child. You can choose the birth parents for your baby.
  13. You can have a vital impact on the life of your child. If you choose adoption instead of abortion, he/she may need and want you to be an integral part of his/her life.
  14. If you choose adoption instead of abortion, you will ultimately see that you have touched by adoption for a purpose and that your son or daughter will be grateful to you for sacrificially carrying him/her for the first nine months of life.

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