Real Adoption

10 Dec

By Shadow

After reading TAO’s recent post, where she talked about triggers, I suppose you could say, it triggered me. Here I am, the less vocal one, once again speaking up. In her post, TAO spoke of how the term “real” can be a trigger for some adoptive parents. It is a word that also seems to be a trigger for many adoptees, and others in the triad as well. Oh, the stories I could tell, the explanations I could give, not to mention, discussing my own personal feelings on that particular word in adoption, could keep me typing for days. I have so, so many, “real” adoption experiences of my own with that word, it would, undoubtedly, be a post unto itself. I, really, don’t want to go there today, but?

After almost half a century of experience with adoption, and the use of that particular word in adoption, frankly, I’ve found if a person, seriously, cannot see just why “real” is such a degrading, and insulting word to “everyone” in the triad, not to mention, another one of the lies of adoption, and needs me to explain it, it’s probably not going to end well for anyone involved in the discussion but me. I find it a bit funny, now that I’m thinking about it. As a child, I, on more than one occasion, had my mouth washed out with soap, and found myself in trouble for using four letter words. “Real” wasn’t one of them, but maybe, it should have been. (Disclaimer, and in defense of my adoptive parents, because that’s what a good adoptee does: In my childhood days, washing a child’s mouth out with soap was a perfectly acceptable punishment, as was many other things that horrify people today.)

For an adoptee, that, one, stupid, meaningless, little four letter word sure can cause a lot of pain. The fact that, still, today, so many people in the triad need to use it to feel validation, well, it just speaks for itself, in my opinion. Let me see, ”real” children, “real” parents, “real” birth certificates? Really? People don’t get it?

Isn’t it interesting how one, simple, little word like “real”, used in a post on this blog, could trigger some feelings in me, and send me off on a little tangent, yet TAO’s post wasn’t even about the word “real”. Her post was about the words illegitimate and bastard. In my, almost, half century of experience as an adoptee, I’ve had many encounters and experiences with those two words as well. The shame of being an illegitimate, bastard, has certainly caused me some very deep pain. I can tell you many stories of how the shame has hurt me, and others, even before I was ever old enough to understand the role it played in my life, and subsequent adoption. Isn’t it ironic how adoption was supposed to protect adoptees, and their parents, all four of them, from the shame, but never did, never could, and never would? I can explain in explicit detail how that shame cut like a knife, not just me, but, both my adoptive, and birth parents; just one more lie told in the ”real” world of adoption.

That shame still haunts my families today. We did not escape it. We never will. We try our best to ignore it. Yes, almost 50 years after the fact, the shame still has the power to hurt all of us. I suppose it always will.

Adoption was supposed to be the solution to the problem. That’s what my birth parents believed. It’s what my adoptive parents believed. It was obvious to me, even before I could understand, that it was a load of crap. As an adoptee, I felt it, the looks, the whispers, and the comments, just like all of my parents felt it. We will live with it for the rest of our lives. WE will never discuss it, because it hurts us too much. How could it not? Believing the lie that adoption could take away the shame, who wouldn’t want to believe that? We will just go on ignoring it, it’s easier that way. What else can we do? We can’t change it, no matter how we try.

Though I can search my memory for stories and experiences of the shame of illegitimacy, being a bastard, and find many, I cannot, however, seem to find one memory, or one story of how those actual, particular words ever hurt me, or ever triggered any feelings in me. Being called those things doesn’t, and didn’t bother me. I heard them used as a child, as a teen, as a young adult, and even today. Why not use them? The fact is I am a bastard, by definition, and I am illegitimate by definition. They are words that describe the situation I was born into. Big deal. They are facts, not a lie adoption uses to cover up the truth. They are “real” words describing a “real” situation.

Frankly, it amuses me, when I’ve been defined as illegitimate, or called a bastard, how the people who are not illegitimate, or a bastard seem to me, to be the ones who get most offended, and defensive. They stand up ready to defend, “How dare anyone use those horrible words“, but as long as those words are never actually, verbalized, out loud? That’s a bit different. Isn’t it? How many will speak up then?

I would rather someone call me a bastard or illegitimate then deal with the unspoken silence of the lie adoption tells everyone. The truth, and fact, that I was the child of an unwed mother, never hurt or made me feel that I was unworthy, less than, or angry. If I felt those things, it was brought about by those, who think it, and would never, dare, say it out loud. They are who, and what, makes me angry. It is those that think it, and can’t admit it, even to themselves, that irritate me. It is those that pretend to treat you as equal, yet their actions condescend and imply that adoption, somehow, saved everyone, that is what cuts me like a knife.

As an adoptee, it isn’t the words that hurt so much. It’s what people would never dare say out loud, but think inside, and how that makes you feel that causes so much pain. Call me an illegitimate, bastard anytime, any day, but don’t look at me like you think that’s what I am. Don’t treat me like a shameful bastard by keeping secrets in the silence of denial, the avoidance of the truth, the knowledge of who I came from with sealed records, or by continuing to ignore the lies in adoption. It’s what isn’t spoken that hurts. I do not have a problem with the fact that I am illegitimate, or a bastard. My problem is with those who treat me like there is a problem with it. It is that feeling, brought about by the lies of adoption, that can damn sure piss me off.

Side note to Adoptive parents and others: All adopted children grow up to become adopted adults, do you really believe them when they keep calling us “adopted children”? Like that’s what we would be forever? Children? “Real”ly?


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10 responses to “Real Adoption

  1. momsomniac

    December 10, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Ah, I still taste soap when I curse. Did you ever ” have to pick a switch”? Oh, the horror people show when my sister and I joke about this, but you are correct, it was the norm at the time. We must be of an age, eh?

    When people ask if C’s brothers are my “real” children (in front of him, no less), I find that I laugh at them. This surprised me, but laughing in a person’s face has proven to be effective. They usually start stammering a correction, and I will say something like, “His brothers are my bio-children – and he is also MY son.” If I thought I could pull it off, though, I’d be inclined to say, “Oh my G*d – what a relief, you can see him too!!!????”

    As for being called his “real mother”, eh, I only care in so much as HE needs to know I am his Mom with all my heart. I don’t really care otherwise. He’ll get to decide what words work for him in regards to his mother, foster-mother, and Mom (me).


  2. Deb

    December 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    I am a biological mom to an adopted person. I read this blog because it is insightful and a perspective that I appreciate. I signed up for an open adoption several years ago, but the adoptive parents closed the adoption in less than a year. I continue to write letters, but have received much grief regarding the words that I use in my letters even though I try really hard to be careful. Because the term birth mother seems demeaning, I once used the the term, your “other mom.” I also said “I hope to see you one day.” I received an email telling me that both of those statements are inappropriate and that the child knows who there real parents are, so I should bug off. It is hard because these statements make me doubt who I am. Did I give birth to a child or did I imagine this? Who am I really? Did I do my duty and now I should know my place and bug off? My heart hurts for adoptees because you get it from all sides, not just one. If we are not allowed our roots, how can we grow into a great oak tree?


    • Andre'

      June 20, 2014 at 8:25 am

      My child was pre birthed contracted in 1984, hidden, so that I could not become a real dad to my child. Being other than nice now is counter productive. I feel for you. I am also a real dad, twice a real father, in my heart twice a dad, now after 27 years, trying to be of value to that lost daughter, her biological dad, her words.


  3. shadowtheadoptee

    December 10, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    Uhg, Mom’s dreaded “go get me a switch” lol Almost as bad as “I’m going to tell your father” I’d add a lol here but that last one was know laughing matter.

    You know, that word “real”…why would people use it if they didn’t know deep inside that adoption was trying to hide behind a bunch of lies? Hope that makes sense. It’s hard to put it into words. I just know that even as a small child “real” cut like a knife. That young I had no idea why. I just knew it did. Now, I know why.


    • momsomniac

      December 10, 2013 at 10:42 pm

      Yes, that makes it very clear. Thank you!


  4. eagoodlife

    December 10, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Oh yes! I never knew I was known as a bastard until later and then it all fell into place. Happy to be known as a bastard now, but not illegitimate as I’m as legitimate as then next person.
    Sometimes karmas works wonders with the ‘real’ people. As a child my best friend had a mother who looked down on bastard me and made it known she believed that my bad blood would show itself. Both her daughters got pregnant in their teens and were made to marry early in order to prevent creating bastards and bad blood! I hope that mother learned something.


  5. Beth

    December 11, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    So many of the “issues” that we often talk about in adoption come back to “real” for me. “real” makes me feel a little like Tinkerbell. She’s real, he’s not real, she’s not real, he’s real, is he your real, is she your real… With each so-called unreal person I am attached to – I become a bit unreal. And with each so-called real person I am attached to – I become a bit unreal then too. With each person who’s realness is questioned, so is mine.
    To save us -clap if you believe in Santa 🙂 or tinkerbell, or me!
    Clap if you believe I am a real girl, real and legit.
    Clap if you truly believe I am a real bastard, so I can be real forever.
    I can’t choose, others can, I have to clap for both if I am truly being real.
    “Real” makes me dizzy 🙂
    It is what it is – whether it’s real or not is a whole nother matter.
    It’s always been easy for me to believe in Santa, and Tinkerbell, and…. some things just aren’t that easy to tag completely.


  6. Christina Broll Smith

    December 11, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Hi there- Thanks for your response. I came across your blog just now and was intrigued. I am a birth mom who has done open adoption with my daughter. I enjoy reading your thoughts and frustrations and what life is like now as an adult adoptee. I look forward to reading more of your posts!


  7. shadowtheadoptee

    December 11, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks everyone. Deb and Christina, hugs. Sometimes, it seems, with the words, no matter, you just can’t win. We know who our “real” pparents are…all of them, even when our “real” parents don’t.

    Von, I hear ya. It seems to me that those who looked down on me always seemed to have a skeliton, or two, in their own closet. Hmmm, people in glass houses?

    Beth, you said it perfectly. You are still my hero. How ya doing? Things calming down for you?


    • Beth

      December 11, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      Pots like to call everyone else, not just the kettles, black. When I run across a jealous person, I always think the person they are with is the one who probably needs to be the jealous one instead. The overly jealous one is almost always the guilty one, or at the least they are struggling with it.

      Up to the neck of my soul in chicken soup here, the coaster is just beginning to get real for everyone.
      I still know Santa is real, no matter what all the know-it-all-he’s-not-real-you-are-lying people say. And he visits us soon! All “my” real kids, and their kids, are coming home for Christmas. So, chin is up, Santa hat is on, and all is well. Plus it’s all lit up and colored red, white, green and real 🙂



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