Just Simple Curiosity?

30 Sep

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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4 responses to “Just Simple Curiosity?

  1. cb

    October 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    “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?””

    Well, that did sort of happen to me actually – apparently a couple of families did say no. However, there are reasons for that:
    1) In NZ at the time supply was catching up to demand so PAPs could afford to be more fussy; and because of that:
    2) When the foster mother told them that I had been born with a small head (which mind you grew fairly quickly within a few days), the previous PAPs obviously decided I wasn’t worth the risk – perhaps they thought I would need to be institutionalised. Perhaps my parents, having already adopted, realised that I was quite normal.

    Good post btw Shadow. It always scares me to think that my APs might not have told me about being adopted – I know people justify it by saying “what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you” but having made contact, I realise that I would never have wanted to be in a position where I didn’t have that choice (I would have have felt this even if I had had an unsuccessful reunion). I think not telling your child they are adopted is like making them a eunuch – you are taking the choice away. (I realise that it isn’t a very good analogy)


  2. The adopted ones

    October 1, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Shadow – I have been thinking about the current themes in adoption today as compared to The Chosen Baby theme. Meant to be especially when it is the version of God put you in your birth mothers tummy but meant for you to be our child all along. I think that would set up just as many expectations the child would feel…

    It all just has to be reality and none of the fancy, dancy, super sweet things, or dressed up in the God called me to adopt. Personally that one bothers me most – I think some people use that line as a justification of their desire rather than just saying they want to parent and adoption is the answer.

    Not sure what I am trying to say other than people need to start looking at what any theme places on the childs consciousness – in a childs chonological age – NOT the adult brain thought process.


  3. shadowtheadoptee

    October 2, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Thanks CB. I think you proved the point of that statement. Wonder if those parents that turned you down, told the child the “chose”, We chose you because you didn’t have the medical issues of what was previously offered to us.”? Probably not.


  4. shadowtheadoptee

    October 2, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    AO, I think, just as with an adoptee’s ability to figure out the whole “chosen” conceept, an adoptee will eventually wonder why God would go to such lengths to creat an adoption situation, when, God, being God, could have just as easily touched the APs, with his amazing grace, and put the baby in the adoptive mothers’s tummy instead. Seems like a lot of trouble to go to, not to mention, the possible after effects on adoptees, and birthparents. Wey would a loving God do that? It makes no sense, and one thing I know is that God most definitely has sense. More than we humans.

    Most of us aren’t really that niave, easily manipulated, brainwashed, or, really, just that stupid. Are we? Most of us figure it out at some point in our lives, even those of us who never blog, or even talk about it. Why do people want to make it something more than it is? It’s not rocket science. The birth of a baby is an amazing, and miraculous, thing. Adoption is not. I know preaching to the choir here, but like you, it angers me when people use God to justify getting something they want. My opinions, and observations, of religion today, as well as, this idea of entitlement thanks to God, would turn the worldds of many PAPs, and APs upside down. God’s will? Adoption? Really?Just have enough faith, believe, and you too can live in a mansion, and drive a land rover? Pray and God will give you the money to pay off your $100,000 credit card debt? I wonder if God looks down from where ever he is, and just shakes his head? Why would he make it that simple for such underserving sindders? Come on people. End of my soap box. lol



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