I see questions and statements posed by adoptees that relate to personal struggles and they believe, or ask if it is related to being adopted. The feelings may be insecurity, lack of self-esteem, feeling of not belonging, being different or other feelings but all of them can be directly related to the loss that adoption brings. Others who suffered abuse or we adopted from a different country, lost their culture, language, racial differences have more feelings to add to the list, and again, it all comes back to being adopted. I’m sure anyone who has surfed the forums or blogs have seen these feelings stated or questions asked.
These feelings are valid and the adoptees have them and own them. In return for asking a valid question or making a statement about them being related to being adopted, they get bombarded with ‘my kids don’t feel that way’ type replies. They end up being negated, dismissed, silenced. They are shut down, belittled. The strength that it took to put themselves out there is received with ridicule, hostility or defensiveness. They are told that kids feel that way in biological families or that studies have shown that adoptees are just as well-adjusted as counterparts raised in biological families. They may imply that it is the adoptees parents who are at fault for not raising the adoptee to have a secure sense of self and that today’s parents know better how to deal with this issues. They inject words into the discussion that infer the adoptee who asked the question is mal-adjusted and just had a bad experience. That adoptees and adoptive parents do just fine and ‘all is well’ in the majority of adoptions. And perhaps they are the majority, perhaps not, but that is not the reason why the question or blog post was written. Silencing and shutting down the adoptee voice is wrong. Providing pseudo-supportive answers in a manner that proclaims your superiority because your child never felt that way is wrong.
The reason why the question or blog post was written was to open a dialogue to find support. Support from others who have been there and felt that. Such a simple concept that helps others feel connected and that they are not alone. That gives them a space to talk and deal with their realities and complexities of being an adoptee. That being an adoptee is for life and that life is complicated by being adopted. Knowledge that others felt and feel that way makes the journey less arduous. It is also a valuable learning tool for parents if they would only open their hearts and minds and listen.
I deal with insecurity, abandonment fears, feelings of low self-esteem. I acknowledge that my temperament plays a large role in how I deal with these feelings. But the feelings stem from being an adoptee because that was the beginning of my reality. I have always been insecure so how could it not relate to the separation from my mother. I would not have the feelings of being abandoned again, if I had not previously been abandoned. My lack of self-esteem would not have been always present in me since a child, if I had not been given away. Have other life experiences compounded those feelings? Absolutely. But the original act is what all those life experiences build upon or compare themselves too. These feelings are the continuation of the first loss. Each successive loss compounds upon the previous loss. It is a logical conclusion that cannot be dismissed. How each of us deals with these feelings is also up to us. But to deny the feelings exist is not productive.
Being talked down to, or asked stupid questions like would I rather have been aborted is mean-spirited. It is hard enough dealing with contradictory feelings inside of you, that relate to not being able to imagine any other life than what you have lived and who you lived it with, and at the same time wishing you never had to be adopted in the first place, let alone stupid questions like the abortion one. That question is very much like the question thrown at inter-country adoptees that goes would you rather have grown up in an orphanage instead of being adopted? Two questions that should be removed from the dialogue. There is no excuse for those who use those questions to shut down feelings, thoughts and words that need to be discussed. I wish the adoption self-proclaimed-experts would focus on teaching others how to open their minds, be mindful, to think critically about all aspects of adoption from the adoptee experiences, instead of spending so much effort creating and teaching happy positive adoption language. Seems like it would be a much better use of their time, unless it is the intent to never allow mindful thought in the first place.
For adoptive parents who ask the ‘would you rather be aborted‘ or ‘would you rather grow up in an orphanage’ questions? I have tried to figure that out for years and the best answer I have is that they want to justify that adoption is the best solution, absolve and distance themselves of the guilt they feel hearing that adoptees feel the loss, because there was another different alternative to living with your family, abortion or orphanage life, so it becomes their default position. They want to forget that the best solution is that the child grows up in their family whenever possible. They came to be adoptive parents for many differing reasons, but for some of them, one reason and one reason alone drove them to adoption – they were infertile but wanted to be parents. The adoptive parents who use these tactics seem to need adoption validated, normalized and even raised up to be equal to, or better than what they could not have, a biological family.
I don’t believe adoption is equal to, or better than growing up in your own family. I do believe it can be good. I think you can be a family. I just don’t think it is the same. I worry that the ‘we are the same as’ mentality may cause the dismissal of the adoptees feelings, perhaps not now but what about the next generation? I could be wrong but believe if you go into it with that mentality you set yourself up for failure. Accepting it is different from a biological family puts yourself in reality. For those who chose adoption as the 1st choice I believe most recognize that you might not be the child’s 1st choice, especially once they truly understand what adoption is and means. For those who chose adoption as the 2nd choice I have seen many whose struggles may prevent them from clearly recognizing why they may be their child’s 2nd choice, a brick wall they cannot move past because they had to choose the 2nd choice and it has to be as good as having their 1st choice. I am not trying to be mean-spirited or cruel, simply understanding that their loss and their own innate self-protection may not allow them an unbiased view. They may say all the right words, but it is more of a repeating what I was told monologue which at the same time kind of questions it too. At the same time I find it hard to understand why they cannot allow adoptees those same feelings that parents to adoption via infertility felt, and most likely if they are honest, will always feel? Why? Why not admit there is the same theme running between these sentences. “I wanted to have my own baby to raise”. “I wanted to have my own mother raise me”.
Just like the closed era had stereotypes of how the adoptee was a blank slate and would become like whoever raised them and we would never question our role. This new era of adoptive parents want to believe that allowing the child to grieve their losses that the adoptee will be healed, the adoptee will never come home and say you are not my real mother, the adoptee will heal completely, and all ‘will be well’, and they will live happily ever after. I wonder what the future adult adoptees of today will feel. My guess is pretty much the same as we do, some okay, some good, some bad, some indifferent, so deeply troubled, some mad, some happy…the list is endless. And I guess they will also have plenty to say about the adoptee experience…
“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”
― Walt Whitman
Oct 2014: You may speak freely, but please try to use words that everyone can hear about your individual story or view. If you don't, those who can actually benefit won't hear it, I want to see change in my lifetime. I may refuse to approve certain comments.
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