An adoption reunion story generally creates comments that run the gamut…
- so happy for you,
- how sweet,
- warnings about not liking what you find,
- the grass isn’t always greener,
- not all reunions work out.
- how do your parents feel about you finding your birth parents,
- don’t forget who your real parents are.
Last week’s adoption reunion story that hit all the mainstream news outlets didn’t elicit those same typical comments – link to the NBC story here. It appears that because there was no mention of the mother considering adoption, the assumption was that she was going to parent, and I’m not saying that isn’t the correct assumption. What is interesting is that assumption apparently changes how people feel about that story, and changes it to a ‘reunion only’ story, despite the daughter being adopted.
It’s an interesting shift in both the public and adoption communities perception, and to me, says that some (most?) people, deep down, still see an adoption reunion as a slap in the face to the adoptive parents, and disloyalty by the adoptee and parent(s) by birth. With this shift in perception to a ‘reunion only’ story, it seems to focus on the loss of all those years (49/50 years) for both, hardly any comments mentioned the adoptive parents, and of those I read, none reminding her (the adoptee) who her real parents are. I do want to note that it is highly unlikely that the adoptive parents, would have known anything other than what the adoption agency told them was ‘the story’ of why the baby needed adoption.
I’ve talked about the lack of acknowledgement of the lost time here in the story of the separated for adoption reunited twins – even in that story people didn’t comment on the time lost between twins who shared a womb for 40 weeks, just the warm fuzzy feelings of them being reunited after about the same number of years as the ‘reunion only’ story. It appears, that if adoption is part of the story then whatever happened – there is no need to recognise the loss of the time that would have created so may memories – it’s a subject that can’t be mentioned because adoption is included in the story. Perhaps it’s time to mull on why it is more important to protect adoption, a legal construct, than a human being with feelings. Can we not recognise both the value adoption can play, and also recognise the cost to those within the adoption story?
This story sparked that recognition of the lost time, decades, because the mother was told her baby died. That made it different to the readers, and yet, how different is that mother’s story of being told her daughter died, versus being told your baby will be adopted out in the grief felt? That is the reality for some mothers in adoption, especially from that era, whether it was her parents, the matron at the maternity home who was in charge of the ‘counseling‘ that told her how terrible she would be to keep the child. As to being told her baby died, that happened too, that came out in the testimony of the Kefauver subcommittee hearings in 1955 (pages 115-120), it noted the baby was going to be adopted, but the person in charge told her that her baby died, the papers she thought were burial papers, were actually adoption consent papers. Imagine her shock down the road when she received adoption papers for her baby she had been told passed away…
Things back then were so different from many adoptions today, whether it was the more benign story of compliance/acceptance to her parents wishes, or the absolutely cruel story, one thing remained, many mothers had no viable choice other than adoption. When you only have one viable choice – is it really a choice? Next time you read an adoption reunion story from that era – consider that the story may be like mine, one of the more benign stories – to the other extreme – recognise that for many mothers it was the only ‘choice’ they had, that they see the adoption as forced (wouldn’t you?).
Acknowledging the loss of the years, takes nothing away from the lived adopted life, it’s just recognising human emotions…