Daily Archives: September 30, 2011

Just Simple Curiosity?

Even back in the closed era, it wasn’t like the fact an adoptee might possibly be curious, and possibly have questions about their families of origin, was a nonexistent concept. It would after all be human nature, and just plain old common sense, in such a situation. Would it not? Surely, anyone with even the slightest emotional depth could understand that curiosity was a perfectly normal, natural, and understandable thing for an adoptee. Anyone not emotionally, at least on some level, capable of comprehending such a concept, surely, would not be able to pass the rigorous, interrogation of an adoption agency’s home study, much less endure the entire adoption process.

Understanding the fact that an adoptees curiosity isn’t, and never was, a foreign concept, explains, at least to me, why many adoptive parents, chose, and, maybe still choose, not to tell their children of their adoption. Of course, the reasoning behind why an adoptive parent might not want to tell their child of his/her adoption is much more complex. It is, however, not a stretch, at least in my mind to assume that if a child didn’t know, they would never ask, never be curious, and possibly, never question their identity, or would they? If they never knew, what would it really hurt? I can only imagine how people, who chose this route, rationalized their thoughts, and reasons, for not telling their child of his/her adoption.

Agencies were certainly aware of the concept. To think that some agencies encouraged adoptive parents to not tell a child of his/her adoption, encouraged parents to lie to their child, is a concept that I cannot comprehend. When I hear about an adoptee, who was never told, finding out as an adult, and the devastation of that adoptee, I can’t help but get angry at the stupidity of this line of thought, and the parents, who could do something so cruel to the child they were supposed to love.

I’m glad Hope Cottage did not deny what was an obvious fact of adoption. They had recommended, before adopting, that my parents purchase and read a set of books. The first was titled, “The Adopted Family for Parents”, and when the child reached age five they would read to the child the second book titled, “The Family That Grew”. These two books, copyrighted 1951, though they negated any significance the birthparents may have to the adoptee, noted numerous times, throughout the book for parents, the “curiosity” an adoptee would have about their original families. Though the grief and loss an adoptee may feel, was never mentioned, literally in the book for parents and at that time in our history and society, something so emotionally deep, so, possibly, painful for all, would have never been outwardly spoken of, it was certainly implied. If a person had the emotional capability of reading between the lines and the meaning of the word curiosity, they would have easily seen that there was more to the questions an adoptee would ask about his biological parents. Was it really as simple as mere curiosity, or was there something deeper?

I have no doubt that even back in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s, that the professionals, who wrote these books, as well as others in the field, knew that adoption would have, could have, a profound effect on the adoptee. How could it not? Curiosity was such a nice word, and so much easier for the general public to understand than saying an adoptee would grieve the loss of his/her original family.

I don’t suppose it should come as a surprise to me that up until my diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa, my need for a family medical history, the subsequent call to the agency, getting my non-identifying information, and next, waiting for a search for my birthmother to be completed, that I had never consciously, or openly asked about my families of origin. A little curiosity was normal, at least according to the books, but I couldn’t recall ever asking any questions. When my mother recently confirmed that I had never really asked about my birthparents, I had to wonder why, especially considering my reaction to finding information on my birth family as a young preteen. If it was normal for an adoptee, and just simple curiosity, what stopped me from asking any questions I might have had? My parents had never discouraged the topic of adoption, so why did I not like talking to them about adoption related things?

As I waited for Carol’s call, updating me on the search for my birthmother, I simply got on with life. I was just curious, nothing more. That was all it was, simple curiosity. It didn’t mean a thing, so there was no reason to share any of this with anyone, especially my parents and family. Nope, there was no reason to tell them. I had enough information with what Carol had given me to satisfy my curiosity. Possible contact with my birthmother would be nice, but what did it really matter? What was she like? Was she married? Did she have children? Yes, that’s all it was, a simple curiosity, and nothing more.

I can say that now, laughing at myself, when I think back on it all. It was just simple curiosity, which explains why, months later, when Carol called to say she had found my birthmother; I didn’t know what to say. It never crossed my mind that Carol wouldn’t be able to find her. It never crossed my mind that she would, either. It never crossed my mind that my birthmother wouldn’t want contact. It never crossed my mind that she would, either. When Carol told me my birthmother had agreed to contact, I wasn’t even surprised. It seems I hadn’t given much of anything, in regard to my birthmother, any thought, but I was about to. Simple curiosity? Yeah, that’s all it was, and nothing more. It is funny to me, as I think about what was to follow, people would say I was just, simply, curious about my birthmother. Simple curiosity, yeah, right, that’s all there is to it, an adoptees simple curiosity.

Footnote by the adopted ones: In the book “Family Matters: Secrecy & Disclosure in the History of Adoption” by E. Wayne Corp, I leaned the following: Irene M Josselyn (psychiatrist) in 1955 first challenged the “Chosen Baby” story.  She questioned whether adoption workers should encourage the parents to lie to their children since few parents actually had a choice of which child.  Josselyn also noted that by emphasizing the “Chosen Baby” theme the parents were inadvertently forced the child to live up to the standards of perfection, which bred resentment and insecurity. 

Lili E Peller to considered the term “Chosen Baby” to be dishonest, frightening, and likely to induce insecurity in the childThe child realized thehe who has been chosen on certain values, while others rejected, could in turn be rejected if he disappointed his parents“.

In 1965, Rondell & Michaels revised the books noted in the post, specifically omitting the “Chosen Baby” replacing the words chosen, with wanted and in some places omitting entire sentences such as “Choosing a child is called adopting a child, and the minute they saw you they wanted to adopt you.” and replacing it with “This is what is called adopting a child.”.

Footnote by Shadow the adoptee: I think I could write a whole new post about well-meaning parents, telling their adopted children that they were “chosen”. For now, I’ll just say, the day will come, for most adoptees, when they are old enough, and mature enough, to look at adoption, and understand that, though their parents “chose” adoption to build a family, they did not necessarily “choose”, the adoptee.

It’s not rocket science, and potential adoptive parents do not go into a room full of babies and say, “I want that one.”. Potential adoptive parents could say no when the agency calls to say, “We have a match for you.”, but what would that really say about those parents?

I asked my Mom about the day they picked me up. “What if you had gone to Hope Cottage, saw me, and decided you didn’t like me?” In the most appalled, and “you’ve completely lost your mind” tone in her voice, she said, “How could anyone do such a thing?”

Doesn’t that say it all? We all, for the most part, get what we get. lol


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