Adopted Children and Suicide

Nicholai Troy Methvin - "Kohla"

Nicholai Troy Methvin – “Kohla”

September 27, 1988 – June 7, 2014


I remember reading a poem by Linda Ellis several years ago, The Dash. The poem eloquently talks about the importance of what happens between the beginning of your life and the end.

I want to share my son, Kohla’s, dash. The last time I saw my son was over a year ago. Two of his sisters and I spent a week with him in Alabama. When he dropped off his sister at five a.m. so we could head back home to Michigan, I gave him a long hug in the dark, told him that I loved him, and I couldn’t wait until summer when we could spend more time together. He smiled, hugged me back, nodded and said, “Okay mom. Love you too.” I followed him out of the housing addition where my step-son lived and sat at the stop sign for a few extra seconds as I watched him drive away not knowing it would be the last time I would ever see him alive.

In that brief moment, I smiled to myself remembering the panic in his behavior when he learned that he would begin driver’s training within a few days. He was seventeen and the classes would begin over Christmas break. Kohla never liked doing anything new, so he sat in a funk until the first class. Pop and I hauled him twenty-five minutes away where he was met by the instructor and immediately put behind the wheel of a car. He looked at us like he’d just been kicked in the groin. He climbed behind the wheel and put the car in motion. We followed way behind for about ten minutes and then waited in a local coffee shop until class was over. Not surprising, he liked it. Kohla passed his written test and driving test the first time. Also, not surprising. I smiled to myself at the fine young man he’d become and then turned on my blinker and went in the opposite direction.

Intellectually, he was very intelligent. In less than five years, he was dual enrolled in public school and community college and graduated with honors. Emotionally, the years in the system and all the transitions crippled him. We could see the problems, and we would haul him off to counseling where he would sit with his arms crossed mad, stubborn, and refuse to talk. At home, he had amazing computer skills and was an excellent gamer. He even studied computer programming to write his own programs. He had no fear of speaking to anyone online, but found speaking to people in person daunting.

Still fluent in Russian, his accent embarrassed him, even though it added to his charm. He saw it as no advantage. He had amazing job opportunities for which he refused to even follow up. He was comfortable at Wal-Mart, and that’s what he enjoyed doing: unloading trucks. He had done it for several years, and when they offered him a promotion, he quit going to work.

He didn’t think much of religious orders or churches, but he had the heart of Christ in that he never hesitated to put money in the poor boxes at any church door. He wanted to care for other’s that had to live in his former circumstance. He remembered kindly the shoe boxes filled with surprises that churches sent to the orphanages when he was a boy. They held special meaning for him. He talked about his mother and hoped that at some time in life he could afford to bring his brother into the USA. He is substantially older; Kohla didn’t want him left there.

I asked him once about his future dreams, he said as long as he lived in the orphanage he didn’t have them. Dreaming wasn’t realistic. Were he still in Ukraine, he would have never learned to drive a car, let alone owning one. He might have gone to a University in Ukraine, but the chances of getting a job afterwards were poor. Orphans are severely discriminated against in Ukraine.

Adopted myself, I learned to smile as a child. Not because I was happy, but because in the abusive environment where I resided, not to smile brought about more abuse. When Kohla first came to the US, he never smiled, and he was always suspect of anyone who did. Ukrainians do not smile unless they have reason. He would ask me very pointedly, “Why you smile? I do something?” I explained to him that in my world nobody ever cared how I felt, they were only interested in appearances. As an adoptee, I was supposed to be happy and grateful, so I smiled as a habit. If I didn’t, I was abused. He wasn’t convinced, and repeatedly asked me for months on end. Finally, he relaxed and quit asking. He began smiling himself.

His blue eyes sparkled when he smiled. His teeth were beautiful after all the dental work and braces he had on his teeth after arriving to our home. His hair was soft with a wispy curl that would blow in the breeze as he would run down the soccer field. There he held great confidence and poise. My husband and I were especially proud to walk on the field with him at parent’s night. He worked extremely hard and would spend hours in his room completing homework and reading assignments. Life had never been particularly easy for Kohla, but he kept up the act until he just couldn’t do it anymore.

Adoption is hard. I wanted to believe that my own adoption had been the exception, but most adoptions are difficult for the adoptee. They are the ones who have to live with losing everything. Job had minimal losses compared to adoptees and he struggled with suicidal thoughts and even raises questions on why he was born. I’ve read a variety of studies done on the advantages, but those particular studies generally are from the adoptive parent’s standpoint. If your children are smiling and getting good grades, they must be happy. I believe that’s the same thing slave owners said as the slaves were singing and working hard in the fields.

The most current study on “happy” adoptees is The National Survey of Adoptive Parents conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Preventions. This claims to be the largest survey completed regarding adopted children. It sparked a 2009 news article presented in NPR entitled, Most Adopted Children Are Happy, Healthy. Two thousand adoptive parents were telephoned, not one adoptee was talked too. The results only show that adoptive parents are happy. When they talk to two-thousand adoptees ages forty to ninety, we’ll have a more clear answer. Older adoptees are far more honest, they have less to lose. After teaching public school for almost two decades, I can confidently state that little has changed in the attitudes of people regarding adoptees. As a class, we are still pathetic unwanted rescues.

A far more disturbing but valid study was done by the University of Minnesota from 1998 to 2008; it was called Risk of Suicide Attempt in Adopted and Nonadopted Offspring. The statistics show that adopted individuals are about four times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-adopted peers. Kohla periodically showed signs of depression, but he never attempted suicide or even mentioned the thoughts crossed his mind. By most indicators, Kohla appeared to be a “happy” adoption success story.

Sometimes I get hard on myself, since I am an adoptee too, and my adoption was really bad. But I honestly didn’t understand how corrupt some of the industry is and that it receives considerable help from some religious organizations.  I didn’t understand that there was so much false information to glamorize buying children. It’s even made out to be humanitarian and religious. Humanitarian and Christian would be helping the poor financially and keeping children with their God given families. Nowhere does the Bible support selling the children of the poor; it’s called wicked. The studies from organizations that appear to be legitimate are frustrating since they often drive bad legislation that makes shuffling children from one family to another good behavior. It’s not; it’s unchristian. During the week following the fateful phone call, I wrote Kohla’s obituary myself and had it placed in the local newspaper and online. I also put together the slide show that would appear in the church during the memorial service. My husband was busy waiting on telephone calls from the coroner’s office and the police station. The days since have been difficult, but I will always remember my thoughtful smiling son. I believe he’s smiling at me right now.

Forever my son.  I love you Kohla.


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