When I was a teen I didn’t understand…

26 Jun


When I was a teen (way, way back when) and I was struggling with all the complicated, and contradictory feelings of what being adopted meant (no one knew I had those feelings), I decided that only those adopted, should adopt.  It made sense in my teen mind that it would be much better if only those who had lived it, adopted, so the young one would have an adult who could understand.

What I didn’t know was how many just like me had already been adopted during my era (the BSE), that by some estimates by the time I was adopted, more than a million were growing up around the country.  A million adoptees just like me, what I wouldn’t have given to have known that.  I know I was lucky to have had a couple of adopted friends and school mates, and had hung out with others at summer camp – but to know there were so many of us?  That would have been a priceless gift.  That was a bygone era, where that type of information on the scope of adoptions happening around the country didn’t filter down, like it does today.

But getting back to that teen belief that only those adopted should adopt, brings out the point of just how little a child/teen really can understand about the totality of adoption, why it happens, how others just like them might feel.  I just accepted that adoptions needed to happen and never thought past that basic premise.  I didn’t see that society could shift, and change, how they viewed unwed motherhood.  I didn’t understand that society also needed that attitude to make sure those in married families who couldn’t have their own children, could become parents.  I didn’t get that demand was part of what drove adoption, instead of society driving change to make life better for mothers.  I just believed that babies like me needed to be adopted – hence my reasoning that they should be adopted by people who would understand all those feelings churning inside of me, not sharing, because even then I understood that unless you lived it, you couldn’t really get it…you could try, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Now that I have a much better handle on adoption, my teen naïve beliefs have been firmly put to rest, I realize those teen beliefs that only those adopted should adopt is unrealistic because – adoption is not always needed for babies like me.  Great changes have happened, but so much more is needed.  To me it is sad that there are many, many companies that exist solely to process adoption, for profit agencies, and what does that actually say about why adoption exists?  Not true non-profit entities that have people working because they want to make a difference, not to get rich, just to do good for those seeking help.  And I say the last because there are non-profits that say they are child welfare agencies, but still seem to promote adoption as the best option for all mothers, not as a solution when all other services fail.  Doesn’t that seem like the wrong way to do it?  Shouldn’t they be working to make the world a better place where babies like me don’t need adoption to grow up protected, strong, healthy, educated?  Shouldn’t the goal be for a child welfare agency to call for, advocate, lobby for, a stronger safety net, that things like a paid mat leave through employment insurance should become the norm, so that adoption is the very last option and not just because they have to work the first year of their child’s life when daycare options are almost non-existent, or after other options have been given an honest chance to work?

Anyway, that’s what I think should happen, a society that views all mothers (and fathers) as worthy of social and societal support to raise their children well, where only babies who have parents who don’t want them, or are not capable of raising them, are adopted out.  If that makes me in your eyes anti-adoption, then have at it, I prefer to see myself as child focused on what is best for them, and when there is a level playing field, staying within your family of birth is best.




Posted by on June 26, 2014 in Adoption, adoptive parents, biological child


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17 responses to “When I was a teen I didn’t understand…

  1. MJ

    June 26, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    “I prefer to see myself as child focused on what is best for them, and when there is a level playing field, staying within your family of birth is best.” << Couldn't agree more! Great post. I'm one of those berzillion BSE adoptees, too. Yuck. Family Preservation should be priority #1.


    • TAO

      June 26, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      Hi MJ – welcome – it’s far better than our day for sure, should be better half a century or more later…


  2. Tiffany

    June 26, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    It definitely doesn’t make you “anti-adoption.” I really dislike how that term is tossed around by people who oppose any sorts of reforms to adoption. As an adoptive mom, I completely agree with what you said.

    We saw our daughter’s other parents this past weekend for the first time in almost a year (a time lapse that *wasn’t* chosen by us, but we understood their difficulties in meeting). My daughter’s other mom, rather hesitantly, asked me at one point if her daughter knew who she was. I had said to our daughter, when we first saw them, “This is [mother’s name] and [father’s name]. Remember I showed you their pictures?” I had been showing lots of pictures to our daughter in the preceding weeks to try to help her feel more comfortable with them. I think her other mom was wondering if her daughter would know who she was.

    My heart hurt for her. Her question came with such wistfulness. There had been several moments in the day when she had walked away very quickly from us with no explanation; but I know why she did.

    I told her that yes, of course we explained who she and other dad were, and although our daughter is still very young, we want to always talk about it so there never is a big reveal. I said that I have to explain many times to our older (not adopted) daughter, also, even though I have explained it to her before. It’s a difficult concept to grasp. I can understand your teenage thought process behind thinking only adopted people should adopt. I also know I will never be able to fully put myself in my daughter’s shoes. I can never be adopted. But there are likely many parenting challenges ahead of me where I will not have been in the place where my daughters will be, and I will still have to be their mama and help them through those times. None of us can ever have every experience, but I think we can acknowledge this and try to open our ears to hear what others who have been have to say. This is why I appreciate your blog so much- your voice of experience, of having lived something i can’t, helps me understand my daughter better.

    *fixed typo


    • TAO

      June 26, 2014 at 5:34 pm

      Hey Tiffany – just thought I’d throw it their way first… 🙂 I think you meant “wasn’t chosen by us” and if you want me to edit it let me know. I didn’t mean to imply that others willing to try to walk in an adoptee’s shoes can’t do a fine job of understanding – because they can. I just didn’t think they could when I was a teen so I didn’t share…I’m ornery like that.


      • Tiffany

        June 26, 2014 at 6:50 pm

        Oops! Yes, I did mean that it wasn’t chosen by us. Thanks for the catch.

        I think my writing came out wrong. I do understand exactly why you thought what you did. I was saying that while I understand those feelings (and that my daughter may have them), all I can do is my best to empathize for any situation my daughters may experience that I didn’t. For me, I try very hard to allow my children their feelings, and that will include any my daughter has about adoption.


        • TAO

          June 26, 2014 at 6:55 pm

          I’ll go fix it… 🙂


    • Andrea

      June 26, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      Why did you adopt your daughter?


      • Tiffany

        June 26, 2014 at 6:56 pm

        Andrea, I don’t share the specifics publicly online (the story isn’t mine to share in that manner). We connected to our daughter’s parents through a mutual friend, not an agency. Our decision to adopt wasn’t because of infertility, but because we wanted to be a family for a child who needed one, and that’s kinda how it worked out for us in the end. I won’t share why my daughters parents made the choice they did, but we are grateful for the opportunity to be our daughter’s second best option for parents.


  3. shadowtheadoptee

    June 26, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    As a teen, I don’t think I, conciousely, gave adoption much thought. There were too many other things to deal with, that, I suppose, were more important to my survival, for lack of a better way to put it. Looking back, I find it very interesting, because, adoption, was, certainly, playing a major role in my life back then. I think, now, as I think bacck, it must have had a major influence on me. I remember, that, as a teen, and even older, the thought of getting pregnant before I was married, absolutely, terrified me. It was, probably, in my mind, one of the most horrible, horrifying, things that could happen to a girl/young unmarried woman. That fear had nothing to do with my Christian morals, and everything to do with the fear of what happened to girls, that got pregnant before marriage, and what happens to their babies, because that fear never stopped me from having sex before marriage. I was afraid that they would take away my baby…just like they took me from E. In my mind, back then, everyone knew unwed mothers were not allowed to keep their babies. I was determined. I would never put a child in the position/situation I had been put in…to be adopted. I would never do that to a child. In fact, now that I think about it, adoption had such a major impact on my thoughts about having children, I had no intention of ever having a child, until, I could give it the perfect life, be the best parent…hmmm, guess that’s why I’ve never had any children, if I’m honest. I never wanted a child to feel the things I have/had felt…just couldn’t do that to an innocent child. I’m sorry to any first parents reading this. I’m just sharing my honest feelings. If I had ever gotten pregnant…whew, don’t know what I would have done…don’t even want to think about it…and, for the record, because I hear it a lot, no, I don’t regret never having children, or becoming a parent. Ha, and adoption has no effect on us? really? lol


    • TAO

      June 26, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      It’s always woven into our fabric of being I think, whether we are aware of it or not. All our experiences make us who we are and adopted is a big one for sure. I too was terrified of getting pregnant. Terrified and thankfully dad told me about Planned Parenthood and where to find it.


    • SaraC

      June 27, 2014 at 2:57 am

      shadowtheadoptee, a large percentage of first mothers never have another child for similar reasons. I didn’t either. It took until reunion to realize the depth of sorrow and pain that had influenced my life. I expended a lot of energy being “normal” and independent.


      • shadowtheadoptee

        June 27, 2014 at 1:09 pm

        Hi Sarah. Giving me up to adoption changed E forever. What makes me really s ad, and angry, for her, is how I can look back at things she did, things that happened, and how she reacted, in her life, and how they are directly related to me, and my relinquishment. I see them so clearly, yet, everyone else just blows it off, because, giving up a baby to adoption is nothing. I keep seeing these commercials for the organization bravelove. The politically correct term would be public service announcement, but it’s nothing more than a commercial soliciting pregnant, scared girls/women. Makes me sick, because I know what a lie those ads really are. E never saw herself as a “superhero” Just pisses me off everyttime I see them…so I better quit here.


    • cb

      June 27, 2014 at 11:11 pm

      Shadow, I was like that too. Like you, I didn’t really consciously think about adoption but I was always scared that I might end up in a position where I might not be able to care for a child and thus have to chose adoption – I do know that that contributed to me being a “late bloomer” and also not having had a lot of relationships (and no casual ones). I’ll admit that it didn’t help that when I was about 17, I knew a woman who got pregnant despite using 2 forms of contraception. I’ve never been in a well paid job and it isn’t until the last 15 years that I’ve even been able to afford to live in my own place rather than share. When I lived in the UK in my mid 20s, I had a few jobs but they paid so badly, I decided to work as a nanny/housekeeper and the housekeeper after me was a pregnant 17 year old 7th Day Adventist who had been kicked out of home and it was through her that I discovered that there would be help for her in raising her child so I did realise that on a hypothetical basis it was possible to be able to raise a child if there is assistance and support out there. I did also realise how difficult it would have been without that assistance/support. When I was working in my earlier job as a typist in the UK, I literally would not have been able to care for a child if they had been no support and no free childcare. Believe me when I say that – I could hardly feed myself. As for telling my parents, it had been made clear that pregnancy wasn’t an option – like Shadow said, there was that feeling that there would have no worse sin than for me or my sister to have a child out of wedlock. I am sure if I asked mum NOW, she might well say “we would have supported you, dear” but the truth is that back then, they wouldn’t have. That’s why I do understand my own bmother’s position and I get the impression that if she had been pregnant in 1985 UK as opposed to 1964 NZ, she possibly would have made a different decision. Even in 1944 NZ, she might have made a different decision as the organisation that arranged my adoption started out as an organisation to help women parent – 20 years later that had all gone out the window as any offer of help would have been seen as encouraging the unwed mother to make the “wrong” decision.


  4. cb

    June 27, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    “Not true non-profit entities that have people working because they want to make a difference, not to get rich, just to do good for those seeking help.”

    I think the problem is that many of these organisations actually do believe that they are doing what is in the best interest of the child. They are for adoption for ideological reasons rather than monetary reasons. They believe that a single mother placing her child in a loving home with married parents redeems that child.

    Also when agencies present adoption to the client both on their webpages and during their counselling, they present it from the “hypothetical child’s” point of view. Thus, even when counselling the pregnant woman re their various options like parenting, “the hypothetical child’s” unsaid voice is saying “Look what you will be depriving me of if you choose parenting”. Someone mentioned the Bravelove site – the whole air on that site is that the the Unborn Child is saying “Please please be selfless and choose adoption for me, otherwise you will be depriving me of the life I deserve”.

    When we try to speak, we are dismissed as being angry bitter adoptees who were failed by our parents and whose lives would have been so different if they had been adopted by today’s “enlightened” aparents and in an open adoption with today’s “enlightened” bparents. I just worry that some of today’s young adoptees will feel like they are in emotional straitjackets worried about letting everyone down. When your aparents and bparents sanity depends on you having a perfect life through adoption, how can you rock the boat? When you hear “My child is where he is supposed to be living the perfect life he deserves”, how can you argue with that?


  5. Valentine Logar

    June 29, 2014 at 11:42 am

    I see adoption from so many different sides. The harm it can do and the good it can do. Growing up as an adopted child, I do know there can be great harm done yet I was also in many ways fortunate, at least in my father. I also, having reunited with my first family know how my parents felt in their loss and how my siblings felt not knowing me, some of this was positive and some terrible and hurtful. There are always so many different and surrounding issues, I don’t think we can ever be pro/anti adoption, what we can be is pro-reform.

    I have also watched my youngest sister as she struggles with the terrible pain of having given up her child to what was supposed to be an open adoption. She hasn’t heard from the family in two years, no letters, no pictures nothing. I am furious for her.


    • TAO

      June 29, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      You described adoption perfectly, and why I struggle so much with the adoption is always wonderful meme that seems to be the current fad. It’s necessary, it’s good, it’s bad, it can be everything all at once.

      I’m also so sorry for your little sister, I had no idea – so sorry. I’d be so furious too. I hear people say that adoptees who speak up give adoption a black name. No, it’s how people act in adoption that give it a bad reputation…


      • Valentine Logar

        June 29, 2014 at 9:26 pm

        Adoption, under all circumstances is what the people involved make of it. I mourn with my baby sister. I understand her choice and wish she had come to me before she made it, I would have offered her shelter and a different choice. At the time I was not in my families life (long story). Now we have this terrible hole.

        My story is obviously different but hasn’t been without its stumbles along the way.

        None of us can predict outcomes.



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