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Kathy Marshack News

Adoptive Mothers ARE Real Mothers

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Mother’s Day can be a bittersweet time for adoptive mothers. I know it is for me for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t help when people say thoughtless, insensitive things that imply that adoptive mothers aren’t “real” moms and that adopted children aren’t loved or wanted by their biological mothers.For adoptive mothers everywhere – wishing you a wonderful, love-filled Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day can be a bittersweet time for adoptive mothers. I know it is for me. You can’t know what it's like to be the mother of an adopted child, unless you’re also an adoptive mother. Although my two adoptive daughters physically resemble my husband and myself, we never considered hiding it from them. They grew up knowing their adoption stories.

Being an adoptive mother isn’t easy, and sometimes you have to develop a thick skin. Although it’s been years, I still remember some of the insensitive things that people said to me…

  • “Is she yours?”
  • “Where did you get her?”
  • “Didn’t her real parents want her?”
  • “How could someone give away such a pretty child?”
  • “Where is her real mom?” 
  • “Just be glad you didn’t have to go through pregnancy and childbirth.”
  • “I’d be so afraid she’ll leave and go back to her real family. Aren’t you worried about that?”

Well-meaning questions can lead to interesting and educational conversations, which I happily entertain. But often people are just thoughtlessly curious, not realizing the hurt they leave in their wake.

Along with these external pressures, our lives were complicated because my girls came into my life as traumatized babies, separated from their birth mothers. I sang to them. I swaddled them. I slept with them resting on my breast. I told them how beautiful and amazing they were. I sometimes think I love my adopted children more since they were so much more work.

But I couldn't heal the wound of separation from their biological connection. As a result my daughters are in a kind of love limbo. Their head tells them that I love them. Their heart tells them they are forsaken.

I have not seen my daughters in years, as they stick to their resolve that I’m the source of their distress. I hope they’ll eventually realize that we still have time to reunite and live in harmony.

I’ve written about those tumultuous years in my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you,” in the hopes of helping others who confront similar experiences. Originally it was entitled: “No One Calls Me Mom Anymore,” because much of it centers on the lessons I’ve learned from being a mother. But that soon became the title for first chapter, which you can download for free here.)

Today I focus on the blessing I have and the God-given ability to rise to the level of abundant Radiant Empathy. Dozens of people call me “Mom,” including young friends and clients. I am blessed and proud to be Mom and Grandma to those who need me and genuinely love me. So I’m going to enjoy my Mother’s Day and I hope you do too.

Read more on my website: Adoptive Families.

November is National Adoption Month – What Do Adopted Children Need to Thrive?

Monday, November 07, 2016

November is National Adoption Awareness Month – Can you adopt a child, and what can you do support adoptive families and adopted children that you know?The subject of adoption is close to my heart. Many of you may know that I have two adopted children. And as we enter November, it’s good to remember that this is the nationally proclaimed Adoption Awareness Month. (In 1984 President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week. Then in 1995, President Clinton expanded it to the entire month of November.) There are more than 100,000 children in the U.S. who are yet unplaced in permanent homes.

It’s understandable that many have misgivings about becoming adoptive parents. All parents feel unprepared and inadequate for parenthood, at some point, because it’s a road they’ve never been down before. However, if both parents are willing to work as a team and take the leap of faith, you can bond with and love the adopted child as much as if you’d given birth to him or her.

True, there are unique challenges for the adoptive families and adopted children. Especially is this so when the children have special needs. But what these children need is a family who loves them and won’t give up on them. If they’re older when adopted they especially need a family who will take into consideration that they have been hurt and are afraid and lonely.

For younger children parents need to decide whether to have a closed adoption. For many years, adoptions were closed and it was even common to hide the adoption from the child. I’ve seen this lead to so many problems. I think it’s foolish for adoptive parents to raise their children without education about the effects of adoption on the lives of their children and themselves.

Children need to make sense of their personal history, and it is the adoptive parents who provide this narrative. They are the gatekeepers to the child’s relationship with the birth parents. So the role of being an adoptive parent is very demanding and can be difficult to navigate without the help of a qualified mental health professional who is experienced with the adoption process.

Please don’t think you have to go it alone. Reach out to your pediatrician to get a referral. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. I would love to help you make a success of building a happy family. Nothing is more rewarding.

Read more on my website: Adoptive Families.

What Adopted Children Need to Feel Loved

Thursday, May 14, 2015

what adopted children need to feel lovedLast year in the United States, 51,000 children were adopted, leaving 102,000 waiting for their special parents to find them. According to state government statistics from 1999 to 2013, there have been 3,989 adoptions in Oregon and in 7,799 Washington.

We all understand, or at least can acknowledge, the losses that come from divorce or death. Perhaps if you’ve not gone through it yourself, you can’t truly understand it yet. However, have you ever considered that there’s a much deeper loss experienced by those that have been adopted? Some time in their lives, they will deal with the grief of the loss of a family, loss of an identity, and intense feelings of rejection.

As a result, many adoptees build walls around themselves so others can’t get close to them and inflict further pain. Or they keep their feelings deep inside so as not to hurt their adoptive parents by making them feel rejected, since they know how much that hurts.

Children need to know their adoptive story. They need to know that they are in no way responsible and that they are lovable, precious and wanted. They need a positive and nurturing environment to grow in.

Raising adopted children and growing up adopted is different than other families. There are many similarities, but the exceptions to the rule need to be examined too. It’s foolish for adoptive parents to raise their children without education about the effects of adoption on the lives of their children and themselves

So, in addition to the regular books and seminars on effective parenting, adoptive families should be reading and talking to adoption professionals about the special needs of their families. People often locate a mental health professional in their area by asking their doctor or pediatrician for a referral or contacting one of the mental health organizations.

The blessings of raising an adopted child are plenty. Take the time to be prepared to meet the challenges. Don’t take your parental role lightly. Educate yourself by reading books, attending seminars, or speak to an adoption specialist. For more information, visit: Adoptive Families.

Looking back as an adoptive parent myself, one of the most valuable resources I found was regularly speak to an adoption professional who is also a mental health care professional. And yes, that led me to specialize in adoption myself, as I studied for my psychology degree.

Since each adoptive family is different, this type of professional can specifically address the needs of your family. Books and seminars are for the masses, but one-to-one discussions will be completely focused on your needs and the needs of your child. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. I would be happy to assist you.

For more statistics, check out the latest US Dept. Trends in Foster Care and Adoption July 2014 PDF.

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