20 THINGS ADOPTION PODCAST with Sherrie Eldridge

Adopted Kids May See Adoptive Mom As An Enemy

August 03, 2022 Sherrie Eldridge Season 2 Episode 6
20 THINGS ADOPTION PODCAST with Sherrie Eldridge
Adopted Kids May See Adoptive Mom As An Enemy
Show Notes Transcript

Sometimes, adopted kids see their adoptive moms as an enemy. Does that mean there's something wrong with them? Bad genes? Bad character? A million times, no! Adoptees have been deeply wounded, first through the loss of their first mothers, and second, by being placed into the arms of strangers. Learn four reasons adoptees see their moms like this and what moms can do to gain hope and endurance. 

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For decades, I saw Retha, my mom through adoption, as an enemy. Why did I love getting under her skin? Why did I seek other moms for advice, giving the cold shoulder to her? Why did I delight in making her mad? 

What caused that hatred inside me?

 AUTHOR: The late Lewis B. Smedes, author of Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Didn’t Deserve–defines hate as “a tiger snarling in the soul. Hate is our response to any deep and unfair pain. Hate is our instinctive backlash against anyone who wounds us wrongly’ 

Was there something wrong with me, with my character? A million times no. I was a deeply wounded adopted child that needed help and healing for the loss of Elizabeth, my first mother. 

Assure: Moms....you are not your child’s enemy. Far from it.
 Goal: 1. Understand Why It Happens, What Adoptive Moms Can Do to Stay Strong 



1. “Contemplate a lineup of moms and your child gets to choose. Most adoptees would choose the First Mother. After all, we’re the apple that didn’t fall far from her tree. Nothing can compare to her, even though her backstory is incredibly sad.” 

a. Story: mother/baby fry pan/hospital,visit/squeal/welcome 

b. Moms: 

  • ●  Cindy Coisterson: “The most amazing thing was when our son asked if 
  • loving us would mean he didn’t love his first parents.” 
  • ●  Rebecca A. Fabricus: “...my child perceives my continued expressions of love as threatening to the natural bond with the woman in whom 

they were created. Thus, it’s not me so much as the fact that I’M NOT HER–even though I’m giving my all to do everything she would/should/could be doing in the role and purpose of a mother.” 

● Wendy Fitzgerald: “I think for the child, there is confusion in their identity that can’t even be put into words. It is as if there is a betrayal of the biological family if they allow themselves to love the adoptive family.” 


  1. RONALD J. NYDAM, Ph.D says, “yes adoptees may consider adoptive mother as an enemy of sorts. But, what also comes to mind has to do with distortion. This is to say that as the process of being parenting unfolds, the adoptee distorts adoptive moms into images of the rejecting birth mother. This distortion is interesting, first because if speaks to the great inaccuracy of the perception, but also because it may be driven by a powerful wish to hurt the first mother back. So, unfairly, adoptive moms take the hit that the birth mother may deserve...as far as the adoptee sees it.” 
  2. Erika Erikson, mom of twins: “As we snuggled, she told me that she just wanted to go home. When I told her that we were at home, she stated,’No, to my other mother’s home.’ Then, several years later, she asked me why I love my bracelet that says #1 Mom so much. When I told her it was from her bio siblings and that it made me feel special to think I was the best mom to them, her reply was, “But, you are #2 Mom, because Tina was first.” Concrete literal thinking. She was first, and I was second. Her first mother will always be first.” That doesn’t mean that she will be most important, but she will always be their first mother.” 
  3. TV ad for whooping cough: grandparents sitting with newborn, as the camera gets close, shows that the grandparents have wolf faces–aware of dangers of whooping cough 


  1. Phantom Pain And Your Adopted Child
     “She’s lost a part of herself that was once connected and vital–the first mother and father. We feel pain for the parts that are missing. We perceive that the limb is still there...and we do that through fantasy. 
  2. These fantasies may serve as transitional objects, like a pacifier or cuddly blanket. 
  3. Adoptee Phantom Pain Surfaces in the Body, Brain, and Spirit 
    • ●  Birthdays (Surely, she must remember me) 
    • ●  New situations, school, church, geographical moves 

3. Example:
 “The pain many adoptees feel can be likened to phantom pain–the kind of pain an amputee feels on the limb that was severed. A great example is Amy Purdy, the once-Olympian whose legs were amputated from the knees down. Just recently, she described the reality of phantom pain from her lower legs. 


1. How Idiscovered self-hate 

Surfacing of a childhood memory of Retha’s fearfulness to a present-day event. 

“Then, in my mind’s eye, I saw something strange. There was a mother and daughter. The mother was immobile but the hunched over child, dressed in ragged clothes and beat-up-red tennis, was wiping never-ending snot from her nose. I concluded that i was glad i didn’t have anything to do with her. 

Later, I wondered if the mom could be Retha. Nope, no resemblance. Okay, was I the mom? Not a chance, for my daughters have never been disheveled. Then, oh no, could I be that child? Then, came the thought, “Will you parent this kid whom you hate? Will you bring her back to life?” 

Recent discovery about Retha from writing: “This kid wanted a mom who was more concerned about my welfare than her own.” (Jabbing of porcupine quills in me). 

Wondering, if my latent anger at Retha was because she was neglectful to take care of my basic needs 

Adoptees: write, write, write to grow, to discover, to heal 

Moms....you are not
 your child’s enemy. Far from it. Your child’s enemy is self hate, but it’s directed 

Do you deserve the hate? Absolutely not. Amy Snyder says, I have always valued peace and security highly and being an adoptive mom has challenged me like no other thing in my life, ever. I wanted to send them away. I wanted to curl up in a ball and hibernate. A nutritionist told me that my adrenal glands were barely functioning after our son (age 17 then), went ballistic on me, screaming things i’ve never heard before. Pure hate.” 

Susan Morrison says, “Only with my daughter’s experience and her psychologist have I been able to understand what trauma is. It is a long life process and something that won’t go away. But as we go, we can get a better understanding of it.” 

Encouragement: Amy Snyder:
 “My children's lives (now 22 and 19) are so much better than if they had remained in the birth country or on the streets. Our family is not what we had expected and hoped for, but God is bringing something beautiful out of the brokenness. Despite many years of their screaming, crying, suicidal thoughts, cutting, pullinga knife on my husgand, drugs, court appeareance, deopping out of hihgh school, premarital sex–even through all this, we can still smile at each other and say ‘I love you,’ and mean it. We have taught then that love doesn’t mean you run away when the going gets tough. Love doesn’t mean you are only there for people only when you like their choices. The love of God the Father is unconditional for us, even when we flip Hin off and go our own way. Our love for our children is the same. Even when they are at their most ugly, we can’t stop loving them, just as God doesn’t stop loving us. We have told them repeatedly that no matter what they do, we are not going away and we still love them. We are family...forever.” 


1.  Workshop, or small group book: Paula Freeman, A PLACE I DIDN’T BELONG...Hope for Adoptive Moms Find adoption qualified counselor: CASE

2. Read: The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel Vanderkolk