Adopting-Back My Daughter

By Stephanie

I tend to be verbose, so please bear with me.

I lost my daughter to coercive/manipulative “open” adoption in 1991. She was four months old and I had every intention of raising her myself. It’s a long story. If you are interested in reading the complete story, you can find it here.

I re-connected with my daughter when she was 17. It was a total fluke. I had no intention of bothering her due to my understanding that she knew all about me but wanted nothing to do with me. My niece saw her on MySpace and thinking she knew who we are she mentioned me. K (my daughter) had no idea who I was or that she was adopted, so it was left up to me to clean up the “mess”. After 3-4 days of constant emails full of questions from her and me answering questions and her confronting the adoptive mother, K shut me out completely. She said she had enough problems without some screwed up “birthmother” reminding her why she’s got problems. It turns out that the adoptive mother never told her she was adopted then told her she didn’t tell her because I was a drug-addict and a prostitute who’d had lots of abortions and was on the run from the cops. I’m actually very normal, considering the loss of my daughter. I think I used my depression and sorrow…my numbness from losing her to simply achieve. I have never been a drug user, was magna cum laude in college and though never did anything all that spectacular…I’m at least a normal hard-working person with a wonderful husband and life.

Nine months passed by. For the first 3-4 months I was desperately despondent…a raging mess of emotions as I continued my flight from the closet fog of kool-aid induced denial. Then, 8 months later I sent her gifts for her 18th birthday and High School graduation…a combo gift box since both happened around the same time. I sent them to the adoptive parents’ home, throwing caution to the wind. My logic was, “they betrayed you both in the worst way possible…she’s an adult now and if they keep these gifts from her…that’s on them…”

That was June 2009. On July 31, 2009 I received not only a FB friend request but an email from K. She was shocked when she came home from school one day to find a box from me in her driveway. The a-mom hadn’t noticed the mailman drop it off. She flung the box into the back of her boyfriend’s car and said, “Drive!” as if she’d just committed some horrendous crime. She said, “I was so surprised, confused and happy to see your return address on that box.” She couldn’t let the a-mom know else live through torturous hell of verbal & emotional abuse. It was all coming together for me now…and I was livid. It was time to stop being the sniveling little “oh how sad it all is” walking uterus and take back my (and our) life and dignity.

K moved out of the a-mom’s house two weeks after she turned 18. She’d lived her entire life being abused by this woman and after K learned about me, it had only become much worse…constant questions, interrogated every day if she’d talked to me, would she talk to me, being reminded what a whore and loser I am, and if K refused to discuss it further then doors were knocked down and her room gone through, her computer, access to the home phone, camera, etc, all taken from her for fear she’d use any of these devices to communicate with and build a relationship with me. This is just the gist of it. It was and is a nightmare situation, including repeated phone calls to me from the a-mom, screeching into the phone and leaving voicemail after voicemail to the point I had to have her number blocked.

K refused any contact with the adoptive family as they had refused her any help of any kind unless she lived in their home and didn’t have contact with me (as well as her friends). She was living from one friend’s house to another. She had no knowledge of how to get into school, get a job, a phone, a driver’s license…she knew nothing about any of the things most kids learn during their high school years. The a-parents refused to allow her any of the normal socializing or life skills as she grew up. It was as if they held her hostage…locked inside their home as though she was another thing to own? It’s all so disturbing and sad.

I set to work earning K’s trust while giving advice on job searching, getting a phone contract, driver’s license, jobs, etc. And in November of 2009, her boyfriend helped me set up a surprise meeting with K. It would be our first F2F since she was a baby. He said, “She wants to know you. She wants to meet you but she will never do it herself. She’s so afraid of being let down…” It turned out to be the most wonderful two days of our lives. From then on I was “mama” and by April 2010 she wanted to travel to my hometown to meet my grandmother, sister and sister’s children. She wanted to see where I was from, where she was conceived and born. She wanted to know her roots. We had a fabulous time. She said, “You are all so like me, I feel like I make sense…” when jokingly asked if she thought we were all loons. In July she came to TX to meet my husband and our friends here. I nested for days before her arrival. My baby was coming HOME. When we picked her up from the airport I leaped from the car before my husband had stopped it, because I saw her, instantly, in the crowd of people and could not get near her fast enough. That too was a no-brainer kind of reunion for us. It just made sense. She outweighs me by a good 40lbs…because she is built like Marylin Monroe (her father’s side) and I’m a perpetual stick figure…but I held her on my lap and rocked her as she cried/we cried. I held her at night when she slept. Sure, it was weird by other’s standards but for us, this regression had to take place. We went with it and my husband and our friends all gave us our space and understood. She said, “Your friends and everything…it’s all the same people and things I’d choose…it felt like home.”

After many horrible run-ins with the a-mom, K called me in May of 2011 to tell me the latest. As usual, K was an emotional wreck, suffering one anxiety attack after another. The a-mom had said she’d put up signs all over town “Missing girl…have you seen this girl…” even though K was an adult and she knew she was not missing. The a-mother threatened K with having her locked up in a home for the mentally ill. The a-mother finally called the police telling them K had stolen her checks and wrote fraudulent checks with them. It was the a-mom’s usual tactics of trying to scare K back to their home…to be dependent on them and be their most elaborate piece of furniture again. That went no where because it never happened and therefore there was no proof. It was all so sick and disruptive that K said, “I can’t do it anymore. I just want to cut ties with them completely. I don’t even want their last name. It’s not even mine! It’s like a cloud of bad luck hovering over me!”

I suggested she get restraining orders and we’d check into how to annul the adoption. I explained that legal parents or not, no one can harass you like that and I’d heard of people annulling adoptions so surely it was a possibility. She didn’t want the extra stress of restraining orders (she’s very much anxiety ridden…suffering severe PTSD) and we could find nothing on annulling adoption in the state she lives in. I’d mentioned me adopting her back so she said, “Would you and Appa (husband is Korean, appa is daddy) consider adopting me back?”

WOULD WE!!??!

I work in a law firm so I had already done my research. I knew how adult adoptions work in TX. It is straight-forward. It has to happen in the home county of the adopting couple and the adult to be adopted just has to sign a form saying he/she wants to be adopted and if they want their name to change and why. Then the adult to be adopted goes before the judge with the adopting couple in the county the couple lives in so that it can be finalized. It should have been cut and dry…simple and easy. I thought it would be an easy breezy process and that’d be that…but I had to have a lawyer…just in case. I knew I’d have to go through an adoption court where surely everyone would be pro-adoption and anti-REAL mother even in an adult adoption. I needed cover and I knew it.

It took a week of non-stop efforts to find a family law attorney to take the “case”. No one wanted to touch it. Weird. It is so easy…easy money…I didn’t get it. I even tried the one Family Law attorney we have in our firm and this usually very talkative, kind and gentle woman suddenly became angry, abrupt and curt. I later realized…most of these type lawyers are doing the other type adoption and are just as discriminatory against natural mothers as anyone could be.

When I found someone to take the “case” he was over the moon. He usually does divorces and custody cases, but was gung-ho about helping us, saying incessantly (music to my ears) “this is beautiful thing! What a fabulous story!…”

I paid him $1000 to get my child back legally. When he told me the cost I was stunned. I knew the adoptive parents much have paid much more to steal my child from me and yet it only costs me a grand to get her back legally? Granted, it cost us both much more in our trauma and loss…but it begs to question why it costs so much to adopt a baby to start with. I fully believe if it weren’t such big business, I’d have never lost my child to start with…those agency worker’s would have heard me say repeatedly that I wanted to keep my daughter. I think they saw dollar signs instead. My child is not a commodity. She’s a person. She’s my child, born of my body and loved so intensely that she and her existence alone had the power to keep me going. There’s no price tag to be put on a human being or their rights in the world. Something’s gotta give!

K signed her consent for adoption and it was filed in the Travis county court along with our petition to adopt including her name change. We were put on the docket for August 9, 2011. My husband and I immediately bought airline tickets for K to fly in for the court hearing. She was very excited but also afraid. She wrote and called me several times for reassurance that the adoptive parents never had to know of this. I reassured her. Our lawyer reassured her. We were to go to court on a Tuesday and have a big celebration on that Friday then she’d return home on Saturday. In between we’d be playing at the pool, having mother/daughter time and shopping for her a dress for my sister’s wedding.

K and I got all dressed up in our favorite summer sundresses that Tuesday morning. We were all so excited and happy. As we went through the security line at the courthouse my husband was stuck being extra checked due to a metal plate in his leg as K and I looked around for the attorney and K gripped my hand tight and said, “I’m scared mama. They won’t have to be contacted will they? I’m really nervous…” They being the adoptive parents who are very scary.

I promised her, “No. You are an adult. This is your choice. We go in, we say our peace, the judge signs off and we’re done.”

Finally my husband and the attorney walk up and the attorney coaches us. “They’re going to ask you to swear in as to why you are doing this. The judge will ask why the adoption and why the name change then she will sign off and we’re out of there. Luckily we are first on the docket for today. Don’t be nervous. There will be no one in the courtroom but us since this is the court they do minor adoptions in…they don’t allow people to sit inside…everyone waits in the hall…”

By this point we’d made it to the hall. The first thing I saw were adopters with their little purchases lined down the hallway. I felt sick. My head felt heavy…I felt almost drunk to look at them. This was harder than I thought it would be. I’m going through the same courtroom to take my daughter back as they went through to take her from me to start with…but I wasn’t allowed there that time. But what about all these little ones who have mom’s like me out there not knowing what’s just hit them? It was a sad and helpless feeling even in light of my happy occasion. I couldn’t look at them. I focused down the hall in the opposite direction as K held my hand tight and laid her head on my shoulder saying again,

“I’m nervous mama…”

“I’m nervous too…but we got this…”

We were almost immediately called into the courtroom. It was just me, my husband, K and our attorney and a sick shrine of stuffed animals on a table in front of the judge’s desk. These are stuffed animals they keep there for the hapless infant/toddler adoptees that they apparently cycle through on a daily basis. A daily basis! This stuck in my head like an ice pick. I know how they do it, but was not fully aware just how many babies they were able to procure on a regular basis. My head was swimming. It was no place for a natural mother to be and yet exactly where they should be during the hearing for their baby to be adopted. I was the only natural mother there, of course.

K sat between my husband and me and I stared at those dolls and tried to not let it bother me but it made me seethe with hurt and anger. “how dare they try to make it nice by shelling out stuffed animals to these kids as if it makes up for all they have lost!” My mind and emotions were on overdrive…much more than I had expected. But, K saw a little Asian doll amongst all the teddy bears and fuzzy kittens. She said, “That one is mine!” I took a deep breath and agreed. If she wants that Asian doll (since she is half Guamian and my husband is Korean) then so be it. At least this time around, it will commemorate who she really is and where she truly comes from and the victory of us getting back to that natural legal status.

It was supposed to be the matter of us swearing under oath as to why the adult adoption and that K wants to do it and isn’t being forced into it. Instead, the judge asked all kinds of leading questions that were nothing short of triggers for me. I had a vibe from her the moment she entered the room. I hoped for the best but braced myself for the worst. She asked me a lot of hurtful things to the point I finally burst into tears. I think I began to cry because I was enraged but knew I couldn’t say anything…that same old feeling of helplessness … so the tears came instead. She asked me, since I am K’s biological mother, “what happened that you lost your parental right … did [children's services] step in and take her?”

I ground my teeth and abruptly answered with the facts,”She was adopted.”

She let out a little condescending guffaw, “Clearly, but could you explain please why that happened?”

My anger was boiling over. Trying to control myself, I gripped my chair with my right hand as K grasped a tight hold of my left hand and I spat out the bare bones of the truth, “I was 19 years old, practically homeless and had absolutely no one. I had no support of any kind and met this couple who convinced me they were there to help me and …” the tears spewed out! I finally gasped out, “they were surrender papers…I didn’t know I was severing all my rights to my child…they were surrender papers…”

K squeezed my hand tighter.

The judge just gave me one of those “humph” looks and I swear she rolled her eyes. She took a few seconds to stare me down and give off her convulsive like little “humphs” while looking down at the order for adoption and name change, shaking her head slowly.

Then she asked K, “And do your PARENTS know you are doing this?”

Are you kidding me!!?

I nearly flew out of my chair with my rage…I felt it trying to catapult me to the bench to punch that judge in the head. Seriously? After what I just told her, she felt it necessary to interrogate K about the fake parents she is trying to rid herself of … people who, regardless K’s current relationship status with them, have no right one way or the other to what K, an adult, chooses to do? This question had absolutely nothing to do with whether or not to allow the adoption and name change. This, my friends, was an unnecessary dig at me. But what this biased judge didn’t understand … clearly did not understand is that my daughter suffers severe PTSD for many reasons and one of those reasons is the fact the adopters abused her all her childhood and once she fled from them (yes FLED) the a-mom continued to stalk and harass and threaten not just her but her friends, her friends parents, co-workers…you name it. She even made threats to K at K’s job after following her there. So, this unnecessary question sent K into a panic attack that scared all of us, our attorney included. After us reassuring K over and over again that the adopters would never be contacted, that they never had to know until they found out for themselves, that as an adult she does, finally, have a say in her own life and decisions, this judge throws all that to the wind by suggesting that somehow the adopters should be notified. K didn’t understand that this lady was biased and needling me. All K heard was, “they will be notified and you can’t move on”

K nearly cried, she took a sharp intake of breath and squeezed my hand tight while leaning closer and gripping my arm with her other hand…her eyes bulged out, looking at me and then our lawyer for more understanding. We all gave K a shake of the head, to say, “No. it’s ok…they don’t have to know.” K finally said, “No. I have not had any kind of a relationship with them in three years. It was a very abusive home…abusive people…”

She then asked K, “And how did this come about that you had contact with Mrs. Kim?” Again, seriously? I thought I’d grind my teeth to nubs! Why on earth does this matter? What difference does it make in the fact that an adult wants to be adopted and change her name? I read about it all the time. All these stories about some adult who happened across a great family after her natural parents had proved to be people she couldn’t have a happy, loving life with. In those cases there’s none of this interrogation, because it does not matter! As long as the adult is not a criminal or someone trying to avoid debt they have the all clear to do whatever they want. I could walk into a courtroom and have some random couple adopt me today without question because I am not an adoptee and it wouldn’t be my natural mother adopting me back.

K told the truth. She said, very calmly (so proud of her)

“Back in 2008 a family member [my niece] came across me on the internet and thought I knew all about the adoption because I was supposed to know…but I didn’t so she mentioned my mom [me] and that’s how I found out…they [the adopters] lied to me…”

There were other stupid, unnecessary questions but those were the most painful ones…she finally let that go and hemmed and hawed and said, “Well, I’ll sign the order for adoption as it seems it is what you want to do but I don’t understand why you want to change your name too. Why is that?” (keep in mind this is all after the judge interrogated us about where K lives [1000 miles away] and K is only in town until Saturday-this was Tuesday)

K said (echoing what we’d all already told the judge) that she wants it 100% official…she wants to have the same last name as me and cut ties with the adopters completely.

The judge said it was “unusual.”

Unusual? When they bring in little babies they don’t ask them if they want their names changed, if they care to have their OBC made a lie, if they want their entire history and ancestry to be obliterated…and they don’t find it unusual to do it right there with one mark of the pen and again, without question.

The judge said she didn’t feel “comfortable” doing it all in the same order and would need the lawyer to petition the court in another order. Our lawyer tried to explain to the judge that by law he didn’t have to do that…that by Texas law it is usually done in one order as we’d tried to do it. [a criminal history was already done on K, but not with her fingerprints] The judge said she understands that but given that K is an adult she’ll need fingerprints and criminal check and therefore a new order. Basically, she was saying that she was doing it HER way and I felt like it was just a way to stall us…to try to mess up our plans since she had no grounds to not sign the adoption petition. It felt like she wanted us to not be successful in fully changing K’s identity back to what it should be. Well, joke’s on her becaue to do that we’d have to be allowed to annul the original adoption. We were just doing the best we could with what we had and the odds were now against us that we’d get this done before K had to return to her home state for school, etc. This type of intense criminal history check is highly unusual. Otherwise, why not make that part of the adult adoption petition to start with? Better yet, how about we add more investigation into the adopters [and agencies] petitioning the court to take our babies to start with. We just had to roll with it and walked out happy that K was now legally my daughter again and all the running around to get fingerprints/criminal checks was just going to be another part of our story…we’d make it happen. We would not be thwarted in any way.

Our attorney was nearly in tears. He couldn’t believe how badly things went and what an unlikely and wholly unnecessary hardship this was for us to have to go back through court to get the name change order…and get it done within three days so that not only could we not have to go through more legal fees and K flying back to TX but also to get her in college. The adopters refused to fill out her financial aid forms unless she lived with them and did what they wanted. College means so much to her…this is just on top of all the millions of reasons this was important. Our attorney said, “Go today and get the fingerprints and criminal check, bring them to my office…I’ll wage war at the office to get this done by Friday and I’ll pay all the extra fees and court costs.” He did. He made it happen.

We’d gotten all dressed up to go to the park by the courthouse and take a nice family photo but had to rush around all afternoon and never got it done. We’d also planned a very nice lunch downtown where I’d give her the gifts we’d bought her to celebrate this wonderful day. I’d bought she and I matching pendants of Demeter and Persephone and bought a beautiful silver compass that I’d had her new initials and the date engraved onto. The date was off on the new initials, but what the heck…we were going to be so busy the next few days we may as well do it now. We wound up in a fast food place after getting her fingerprints done and that’s where I gave her the gifts. She loved them and we both wear our pendants proudly.

That all went down on a Tuesday. On Wednesday, my husband and I took K shopping for a dress to wear to my sister’s wedding…we’d then have lunch and go for a swim and relax. I rushed out first thing Wednesday morning, picked up the fingerprints & criminal history and dropped them at the lawyer’s office. No sooner did we get to the shops (a half hour away) did the attorney call to say they needed K back there to sign more papers so we could get on docket the next day. We rushed to the office and by late that afternoon we were on docket for the next afternoon. My husband had no choice but work that day so it was just me and K. We did a lot of hugging and deep breathing before heading out to the courthouse. As we stood in the hall waiting for our attorney K nervously clutched at my hand, “I hope we don’t have that same judge.”

“Me too!”

We didn’t. He called K’s name and she walked up to the bench with our lawyer. Our lawyer said simply, “K was adopted as an adult by the Kim family. Her mother, Mrs. Kim is in the court today {pointing at me}. Ms. D~ would like to change her name to be the same as her family…” The lawyer had more of a speech prepared but the judge cut him off {while signing the order} and said, “Sounds like a good reason to me. It is so ordered.” I immediately started to cry…with relief and joy and God only knows how many emotions going through me.

We walked out with the lawyer to get certified copies of the name change. K and I both wept, hugged…couldn’t keep up for stopping to hug and sob and talk and text people that we’d made it. We FINALLY won. Our lawyer was teary again and said, “You two should write a book. People should know about the journey you have both taken to get here.”

I said, “I’m working on that…I won’t stop until everyone knows…” K gave me a big smile and hug.

We got her dress for her true Auntie’s wedding and our friends threw a big poolside cookout celebration in honor of K coming home to where she belongs…being who she is and having a full life ahead of her full of love and happiness and I hope at least some sense of wholeness, finally.

I must say that I’m still unhappy we could not annul the adoption and return to the original birth certificate…but at least we had a victory in a fight I do not see ending any time soon for any of us natural parents and adoptees.