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Being in the middle…

07 Nov
Shadows post The Courage to Talk About It a couple of days ago got me thinking about being in the middle.
 
I believe this is the reason so many adoptees, those who search, those who don’t, those who talk about it, those who don’t, and, in general, most of us would say that we would rather not be an adoptee. We would have rather been born to one family, or the other family, and not transferred from one to the other. To put it as simply as possible, what we really want is to not have to deal with it at all; not have to balance the good against the not so good parts of adoption.
 
My first thought was of course no one would ever want to be an adoptee. Why would they?
 
But then I started thinking more and more about not only the impact of what it means to be adopted but also the multiple yo-yo effects, so elegantly noted here by Shadow.
 
No one wants to hear an adoptee say that they don’t want to be adopted. No one likes to hear us talk about our grief, our feelings of loss, or our anger at being in such a complex, confusing, and yes sometimes frustrating situation. When we do talk about it, sometimes, what we say seems to hurt, in one way or another, everyone that loves us. Knowing that is a huge burden we, adoptees, bare, as best we can, even when we understand it isn’t really our burden to bear. We all handle it differently. Just knowing how our own feelings may hurt those we love, hurts us too, which is why most of us go to such lengths to protect those we love by keeping those feelings to ourselves, sometimes, at the expense of our own emotional well-being. As adoptees, it seems, no matter what we feel, we take the chance that our feelings are going to hurt, not only us, but those we love as well, and there isn’t really anything we can do about it, or to stop it, other than to stay silent.
 
One one side we have our parents who raised us. Now for those of us who had good parents, who did their absolute best with forethought and grace, well it’s pretty hard to imagine life without them in our memories and in our daily lives.
 
On the other side we have our parents who created us. Whose genetic heritage was passed down to us, as it was passed down to them, as far back as you can go. A family who, we should have by all rights grown up in. They should have been the ones we have in our memories, but we do not know them.
 
In the middle you have several things happening:
 
The residual lasting effects from losing your family that can show up in any number of ways. The feelings of rejection. The need and desire to know why? The need and desire to know them. And that is just a few from a long list of impacts. But those impacts are not accepted as valid, rather “if” they are found in you, the solution is to move past them, ignore them, delete them from your psyche, because they are not compatible with what adoption and being an adoptee “is”.
 
That perception is that adoption is ALWAYS the best solution and what a Blessing it is. If you deny you are glad to be adopted, then the perception is that you do not love your family. If you state you are glad to be adopted, the perception is that you hate the family you were born to, and are glad you were not raised by them. There is no acceptable answer when you are the adoptee with good families on each side. Societies perception, as well as sometimes either or both families, is that it is either/or, never both.
 
And if the above is not enough you have the ego’s and feelings from both of your families. If you search, you are causing one side pain. If you don’t search, you are causing the other side pain. If you spend more time with one than the other, you are causing one pain. Now you may believe you are above all that, and would never do that to your child, but everyone has “tells”, and as the one in the middle we read those “tells” louder than if you spoke the words themselves.
 
On-line if you don’t publicly hold the adoptive side higher than the other, then you are anti-adoption, and written off by most as not worth listening to. If you do hold the adoptive side higher, then you know it hurts those on the other side. It is a no-win place to live. We aren’t allowed to be ourselves and think and feel for ourselves, without one side or the other getting pissed off or hurt.
 
In the media, if a story about an adoptee does not include a good portion of it on the adoptive family, then the adoption community gets upset, and if they are mentioned then the reaction is also overblown touting how wonderful adoption is, and the actual story about the adoptee is gone. If you don’t think we get the message loud and clear with statements to the effect of “look how much he loved his family”, “he considered his adoptive family to be his real family” or “why didn’t they include more about his adoptive family in his story”. But what really bugs me the most about the reaction whatever it is, is the need for the families to be discussed at all, when the story is about the individual. I hope you stop and think about that reaction when an adoptee is highlighted, versus the reaction you have when it is a non-adopted person highlighted. When was the last time you read about a non-adopted famous person and commented about the lack of family mentioned in the article?
 
In the midst of these thoughts, I am also reading S.teve J.obs biography, and perhaps the above reasons are why he chose to not speak about being adopted very often, because it would have been a no-win situation for him either.
 
Sometimes you can see this confusing mix of realities of what adoption is, and how it can impact an adoptee, and her families in their memoirs, and Lorraine at First Mother Forum has written a great review of Joan Didion’s Blue Nights.  I hope you take the time to read it. 
 
 
 
 
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13 Comments

Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Adoption, adoptive parents, biological child

 

Tags: , , , , ,

13 responses to “Being in the middle…

  1. cb

    November 7, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    .Wow, you said that beautifully!

    “And if the above is not enough you have the ego’s and feelings from both of your families. If you search, you are causing one side pain. If you don’t search, you are causing the other side pain.”

    And sometimes we’re pitted against each other even though we often get what the other feels.

    “There is no acceptable answer when you are the adoptee with good families on each side.”

    I’ve often felt that is bizarre. If an adoptee has a dreadful first family and can honestly say they are glad not to have grown up in them, then that adoptee is lauded as being a good adoptee.

    If, like me, you do have great first and afamilies and refuse to sell either family down the river, we are often considered to be fantasists, told that the “grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side”, told that our mothers “probably would have resented us if they had to raise us” and told that they just wouldn’t have been as good parents as our APs were (have been told all of those online at one time or another). So because, I am lucky enough to have two great families, I am a bad adoptee because I refuse to say one is better than the other lol.

    My personal advice to our families is to let us be us and be and love who we want to love. Try not to make us feel beholden to one side or the other. Listen to what we are actually saying rather than what you think we are saying and try not to invalidate our feelings. I have to say that both my families have been pretty good like that though it still isn’t easy trying to process it all.

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    • The adopted ones

      November 8, 2011 at 12:01 am

      You said: “I’ve often felt that is bizarre. If an adoptee has a dreadful first family and can honestly say they are glad not to have grown up in them, then that adoptee is lauded as being a good adoptee.”

      Yet if you flip it around like this: I’ve often felt that is bizarre. If an adoptee has a dreadful adoptive family and can honestly say they rather not to have grown up with them, then that adoptee is slammed as being a bad adoptee and had a bad experience.

      There are some adoptees who had really bad parents – parents that abused them either emotionally, physically, sexually or combination there of and they still end up being the bad adoptee. Blame the victim happens far too often in adoption.

      I guess it is far easier to believe that no adoptive parent would harm a child despite facts stating they can.

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  2. Damian

    November 8, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Hi Adopted One
    what you describe I believe fits into the classification of disenfranchised grief.
    Where it is not acceptable to or acknowledged by society for you to grieve for your very real losses.

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    • Damian

      November 8, 2011 at 12:46 am

      Imposition of disenfranchised grief is neither acceptable or ethical.
      Your losses are real and you should be allowed to grieve for them and express your feelings anyway you want. Irrespective of if anyone else is hurt by them. It is your losses not theirs.

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      • The adopted ones

        November 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm

        I just get so tired of all the ego’s. I’m old enough and grumpy enough to stand my ground but those coming up aren’t. If we can explain the issue to parents can understand perhaps the next generation won’t see the same result.

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  3. cb

    November 8, 2011 at 12:55 am

    “Yet if you flip it around like this: I’ve often felt that is bizarre. If an adoptee has a dreadful adoptive family and can honestly say they rather not to have grown up with them, then that adoptee is slammed as being a bad adoptee and had a bad experience.”

    Totally agree. And of course, if you have had a dreadful adoptive family then your opinion will never matter because “we are not like them, we will do everything right” or “If you had grown up in a good adoptive family like uors, you wouldn’t be so bitter”.

    Damian, it is true, it is disenfranchised grief. Some of us have a double dose (eg if our mothers have passed away before meeting them (“too bad, so sad – you never knew her, get over it” is the often how we are expected to feel), others who because of closed records may never know their mothers (“why are you so worried about it — biology isn’t important, you are part of our family now, we are your heritage”).

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  4. dpen

    November 8, 2011 at 2:11 am

    WOW…This is exactly how i feel about my adoption. We are damned if we do and damed if we don’t/ Yes, other members of the triad say the same thing..but it is NOT the same thing at all. This is how it was for us since day one…it is ingrained into who we are. Good adopttee=compliant child. How easy for all the others to “feel good” with no real insight on how WE are really feeling.

    Another thing i wanted to mention. Often when an adoptee says they don’t want to be an adoptee we hear the “But you could have been aborted, aren’t you glad your living and breathing” OR I took my child out of a flea infested orphanage that he/she lived with watching other children commit suicide and gave him/her a better life! HOW DARE YOU say he is not better off” OR My child was not fed, being brought up by a mother with 18 kids with all different fathers, and an abused drug addict to boot…..” and many more sad stories. I have try to get through to them that it does’t matter what they came from and yes they were better off being removed but to ONLY use that as a basis for adoption in its present form is still not validating the child, or REALLY giving the child what they need. They need to know that just because their first family was not parenting material that their biology is important and needs to be respected. Otherwise the child is feeling negated, not good enough and feels the need to boot lick their parents boots…just because the parents made a choice to adopt this child..their childs biology is THEIRS and can not be morphed into the adoptive families. They exist because of biology and it needs to be just as good as the adoptive families. If the adoptive families really have a superior attitude over the “biology” then don’t adopt because you won’t be doing the child any good.

    No, I wish I was not adopted. But it is what it is and I am glad i had the parents i did if i needed to be adopted. They actually did make an attempt to understand my place..even in the dark, unenlightened ages of the 60’s and 70’s.

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    • The adopted ones

      November 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm

      Dpen – that’s where they fail to see what we are saying and come up with the you could have been aborted or orphanage comeback. They keep missing the point or just want to distract and deflate the discussion.

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  5. Lorraine Dusky

    November 8, 2011 at 2:33 am

    I hate that adoption became a part of my life; I hate that I surrendered my daughter when I felt in 1966 I had no real choice. I was dying of shame, I felt after what I went through to go to college pretty much against my father’s will, that I could not go home again. I should have. And I will never forget the look in my daughter’s eyes when she shook me and said (we were supposedly play acting): WHY DID YOU GIVE ME UP? WHY DID YOU GIVE ME UP FOR ADOPTION?

    I can never walk in your shoes nor feel your angst and pain. Never stop telling your stories, the world needs to know, and other adoptees need to join you to make a loud noise that the world will pay attention to.

    And Thanks for the recommendation to my analysis of Joan Didion’s Blue Nights.

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  6. cb

    November 8, 2011 at 5:46 am

    “They actually did make an attempt to understand my place..even in the dark, unenlightened ages of the 60′s and 70′s”

    Sometimes I think some of our 60s/70s parents “got” it more than some of today’s lot. I loved my parents but never felt beholden to them – they just told us the facts as they were and answered our questions when we asked them (admittedly i didn’t ask many) and never made our adoption about them. I don’t think I was ever made to feel I was the “prize at the end of a long tunnel”. Some adoption stories that are in print seem to be about how hard the adoptive parents waited to adopt a child and give the impression that the child is a hard-earned gift.

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    • The adopted ones

      November 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm

      I am really starting to think the parents from our era were way ahead than anyone gives them credit for when you see how much “noise” comes out in today adoption.

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  7. cb

    November 9, 2011 at 5:56 am

    One thing I have noticed that many of us “angry” adoptees have in common is that we think of our parents, both natural and adoptive, as human beings and that it is precisely because we do see them as humans that we question a lot of things in regards to adoption. It is much easier to ignore any negatives of adoption if we put all the participants in boxes where they are how we wish them to be.

    Not sure if that makes any sense lol.

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