Unintended Victims

I have discussed the concept of collateral damage in adoption several times on my blog. My experience highlights that my sons are collateral damage to the surrender of their sister to adoption. I use the term collateral damage as the military does. Specifically, that it is damage that is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome. In the military sense, a targeted action is directed to a specific victim or resource but someone or something unexpected happens to be in the line of fire.

My oldest son has expressed what I perceive to be evidence of his personal collateral damage experience. He has asked me, on more than one occasion, why his sister doesn’t want to know him. He seems to understand why she might be mad at me or at my mother, his and her grandparents. Yet him? He is befuddled. He did not even exist when she was born.   He has directly asked me “What did I do to her, Ma?”  Needless to say, my heart cracks a bit each time he expresses this.

What did he do, exactly? Have the misfortune of being born to a mother who gave away her first born? Express a desire to know his half sister? Find her to be beautiful? Find that she reminds him of his mother? Find that he cares for a sibling he was not raised with but desperately wants to know?  Why should he feel obligated to comfort his mother for feelings provoked by his sister?

I have no answers for him.  Years ago (see normalizing) I would try to give age appropriate explanations of adoptee psychology. It was crap. It was me trying to explain the unexplainable. Trying to make the insane seem sane and the cruel seem kind. I don’t do that anymore. Now, when he asks, I simply respond with “I don’t know why your sister doesn’t want to know you”.  For that is the only truth I do know. I do not know. Only she does. He deserves an explanation from her not a made up wild ass guess from me.

Jenna has been talking about this collateral damage surfacing in her own home, in her open adoption. My heart aches for her too. And for her little guys who are dealing with this younger than my sons did in a completely different way – they see and KNOW their sister via an open adoption.  Jenna could use some hugs and loving. Feel free to send here or here.

For mothers who read here, that are in reunion and had subsequent children, would you consider sharing evidence of collateral damage in your family? How have you handled it? How have your children done so?

Equally, if not more important, were you told at the time of surrender that future children would be effected?

ETA: The links in the first paragraph take you to some of my older posts where I discuss collateral damage in my home. You can also use the Categories pull down on the right of this screen and select Collateral Damage.

10 Thoughts.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Unintended Victims « Writing My Wrongs -- Topsy.com

  2. After our last visit several weeks ago, I was talking to Woob’s mom about his two little sisters. N. said that one of the girls started asking “where Bubby?” for a few days after we left, “me play with Bubby now.” She said that all along she has been thinking about how to someday talk to Woob about placement but that really until she heard her daughter asking for him, it hadn’t really occurred to her how the adoption will affect her girls. So, I can pretty much imagine that our agency DIDN’T discuss this with her at the time of relinquishment, before, or after.

  3. Wanted to add on to my comment reply to M.

    The adoption industry relies heavily on the belief that family connections DO NOT MATTER and that family is replaceable and interchangeable. if they WERE to tell expectant mothers that future children would suffer a loss, it would no doubt cause mothers to question the myth that family connections dont matter. I doubt the industry would ever want to tell mothers that our future children would be negatively effected. For sure the #’s of infants available for refurbishing and adoption would go down dramatically.

  4. I want to share a story that is loosely related. It may or may not make sense it just hits me and so I feel compelled to share.

    My husband was eight years old when he met his (then) sixteen year old sister. He had not even known she existed. She was the product of his father’s first marriage and her mom had moved her to Italy (step-dad was in the military) before Hubby was born. At sixteen she had come back to the US to go to college and would spend the summer with her Dad and step-mom (Hubby’s parents). Hubby and his younger brother (then three) were thrilled to find they had a sister. They loved her immediately. She, on the other hand, was fairly distant to them. I have thoughts on this – she was a sixteen year old girl in a strange house with people who were essentially strangers – it could not have been easy for her.
    To this day (twenty odd years later) my husband is all but begging his sister to have a real relationship with him and it is just not happening. She is a very family oriented person and she encourages our children to have a good relationship – but all through me. If I email or call I hear back from her within a day. If Hubby emails her she may or may not respond.

    I have always thought there may be some lingering resentment. See my ILs (Hubby’s parents) knew where she was. They choose not to go after her. They choose not to fight for her. They allowed her to be raised by her mom and step-dad and to not be involved at all. In essence they gave up on her. I have always thought she may feel some resentment that Hubby got to grow up in that house. That they essentially choose him (being the next oldest) over her.

    Like I said – maybe the situation parallels and maybe I’m just babbling. If I’m babbling I apologize.

  5. “What did he do, exactly? Have the misfortune of being born to a mother who gave away her first born?”

    Well, 1) she truly may not care, or 2) that could subconsciously factor into it. Based on your previous blog posts, however, it seems more likely that it’d be #1.

    “Find that he cares for a sibling he was not raised with but desperately wants to know?”

    Me too. It just happens to be the opposite way around on my end – I’d love to have a real relationship with my sister, but she has no interest in anything more than familial obligation.

    Perhaps your daughter just doesn’t care. That doesn’t mean you and he have to stop caring. But she might not. :\ And yes, speaking from the perspective of the adoptee whose siblings don’t really give a crap about her… I know that sucks.

    It sucks beyond words.

    • Mei Ling – Based on her written words, she has no feeling at all about her adoption, us, etc. She never thinks about us, being adopted, etc. She has one family and we don’t exist. So yeah, you are likely correct in your statement she doesn’t care.

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