Started in a mood and then it all made sense…

05 Dec

When you write books on adoption, adopting, have a website, facebook, instagram, twitter, all of which focus primarily on adoption, adopting, you being an adoptive parent raising adopted children, isn’t it a wee bit hypocritical to be worrying about whether children are adopted or were adopted? And what if your children decide they were adopted, will they get gold stars? Or, alternatively, they decide they are adopted, will they get lectured on allowing adoption to define them? 

And I know this is a thing many adoptive parents seem to focus on making it only an event that happened in the past. The subject pops up on a regular basis as if it is the most pressing adoption question of all time. Dig deep, process the why it’s so important for you to even bring up the was or is adopted thing? Why it’s important to you that your child only views being adopted as an event that happened in the past. Getting past that is important because your child will always be adopted, and there will always be times when it becomes a pertinent fact.

Just the medical aspect makes being adopted a fact they can’t avoid. Specifically, every time they get sick and go to the doctor, every time they have a routine physical it will come up. If the one adopted gets pregnant the doctor queries their mother’s pregnancy and whether there were complications, the length of gestation, delivery, miscarriages, still births, then it comes around again when menopause happens too. Or when the one adopted feels the need to seek any mental health services, odds are, being adopted will be discussed, family mental health history will be asked about. When you go for surgery and the anesthesiologist asks if any family members had problems with anesthesia and you can’t answer that because you’re adopted.

Being adopted impacts the next generation too; when the adoptee takes their child to the doctor, the adoption legacy of lack of family health history rears it’s ugly head again.

I don’t think openness is going to mitigate that for many adoptees because most will have a bare minimum of knowledge, and not an understanding of how specific diseases have shown up generation after generation in their family because they grew up in it. The lack of interest I’ve found in parents on documenting and updating their child’s family health history shocks me to my core; but whether your child views being adopted as something that happened in the past or that being adopted is part of who they are, is a burning question asked that adoptive parents feel they need to chime in on every single time…

That then collided with a post by a new adoptive parent asking how to “foster positivity about the adoption experience for their child”, and it all made sense. All the mushy adoption memes also suddenly made sense, as well as why it seems so important that adoption was just an event that happened in the distant past. If you don’t view adoption as normal or an adoptive family as a family then you need to work on you. An adoptive family is different from a biological family, different does not equal bad, just different. Fix your view on what adoption and being an adoptive family is, because if you need to make adoption a “positive experience”, then you see it as a negative and are asking how to put lipstick on a pig because you don’t want to deal with the messy that adoption brings with it, and lipstick on a pig doesn’t help, it just tells your child you don’t want to deal with the hard. When you get past seeing adoption and being an adoptive family as a negative, then your goal listening to adoptees today is to spur you to get yourself educated on the seven core issues an adoptee may face at many points in their life, learn how each challenge can present, what triggers it, so you’re aware and can be there to walk with them, or just as a silent witness they know is always going to be there for them.



Posted by on December 5, 2018 in Adoption


Tags: , ,

28 responses to “Started in a mood and then it all made sense…

  1. juliemcgue

    December 5, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    For me, this is the most important sentence in this post:Being adopted impacts the next generation too; when the adoptee takes their child to the doctor, the adoption legacy of lack of family health history rears it’s ugly head again.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dannie

    December 5, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    The only thing I stress to my child which I do try to push, even if not (biologically true) is to be kind with each other (my two kids) that they are their only siblings and will be the ones there for each other. Biologically that is not true for kids adopted and bio (son has a half sister of adult age) but these two will be the only ones with shared upbringing and shared home values to look back on and commiserate be it for the positive or negative. They are very close. I just know as an only child myself, when my parents are gone I won’t have siblings to share in mourning or comfort. I would like them to have that when I’m gone.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lisa

    December 6, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    I’d like to offer a counter-perspective, if I may. Expectant bio parents routinely express a hope and desire for positive birth and developmental experiences for their children (natural childbirth, Lamaze, midwifery, preschool selection, religious upbringing, etc). That doesn’t mean they view birth and childhood as negative. Engaged people talk about how best to ensure that their married life is positive. It doesn’t mean they view marriage as negative. Employers and new hires want positive employment experiences. I think all healthy relationship planning evolves from a similar perspective. Likewise, wanting to make adoption a positive experience doesn’t necessarily mean you view it as negative. It simply means that you understand the potential for adversity and you want to do all you can to prevent it. Adoptive parents can’t just assume that the experience will be positive (especially for the child) because it is rooted in goodwill. They have to plan and work for positive outcomes like all other parents. Don’t you think?


    • TAO

      December 6, 2018 at 8:05 pm

      Not really.

      I never worried about giving birth, just did what the doctor told me to do, maybe because I was raised by a baby doctor, they’re the ones who make sure everything goes okay.

      Nor did we ever think about talking about how to make our marriage positive, nor worried about our jobs being a positive experience.

      Personally, I’ve just lived my life, taking the good with the bad, sometimes having to adjust my sails, always just continuing on.

      If you’re an AP, do consider learning the seven core issues an adoptee may face because the one adopted will have to process what it means to be adopted, if you require their adoption experience to be solely positive then they’ll walk that road alone.

      You can’t plan life to be positive, or negative, you can work to give yourself/family a good life, but you can’t change what is, you just have to face challenges life throws at you head on and do the best you can.


      • Lisa

        December 6, 2018 at 9:14 pm

        Yup, I am an AP and I know like the best of them that life “ain’t no crystal stair”. I’m also a counselor so I am probably more familiar with the core issues than the average AP though of course not as familiar as you or any other adoptee would be. That’s precisely why I follow you.

        I know that we cannot require any experience to be positive. And I wouldn’t require it even if I could. I certainly don’t require him to feel positively about the adoption, or about his new life, or about me. And from time to time he lets me (and anyone else who’ll listen) know just how nonpositive he feels. But I feel positively about it and I do what I can to lessen the negative and move us toward the positive. My own childhood wasn’t devoid of negativity, but by my parents’ intentions there was positivity. By my intentions there will also be positivity in our journey to help mitigate the negativity. And, while I cannot keep life from being bad/difficult I can, AND DO, plan for our good. I can’t promise my kid that the lights will never be shut off, but I can work more responsibly to earn a better living, spend more wisely than I did when it was just me and save funds that I used to throw away.

        My perspective may be a result of my upbringing, or my training, or most likely my personality but I am very much a planner. And while I have faced very many of life’s challenges as they have arisen I do that along with, not instead of, planning.

        In fairness though, our dynamic is somewhat different than yours in that ours is an older-child adoption. So there was no concealing the process or denying his trauma. We began journey with glaring grief, and rage.


        • TAO

          December 6, 2018 at 9:43 pm

          Fair enough Lisa (no idea why it went to moderation). I’m a plain speaker, raised by plain speakers, jaded by all the AP’s who’ve been AP’s for a minute who sling “I’m sorry you had a negative experience but not all do” at adoptees they haven’t taken the time to get to know. You’d be shocked at how many only want to hear the “positive adoption experience” and how that must only speak in glowing terms about how amazing their life was and how they never struggled with adoption stuff, but later on that same adoptee when they are more comfortable talking about being adopted adds on the harder stuff they processed or even still struggle with. If AP’s aren’t willing to hear both the good and the hard when they’re learning about adoption then the child may pay the price, and that’s just not good enough for me.

          An adoptee can’t plan for what they have no knowledge of in regards to what’s in their family health history, that’s always a surprise…you just have to deal with what is.

          Liked by 1 person

          • beth62

            December 7, 2018 at 5:51 am

            Positive + Adoption + Negative = a trigger for me.
            I’m trying to remember when the positive adoption talk (sometimes lecture) typically comes in.
            I’ve experienced it myself many times. And have seen it happen to many more. Thankfully things have gotten a little better over the years since my first accusation of being a negative thinking adoptee. Better being that online some aparents are able to understand it enough to be able to come to an adoptees defense.

            It comes after adoptees talking about negative things like:
            search, reunion, amended records, open records, lucky, chosen, grateful, either/or/both, is versus was adopted, the mom versus a mom… It could be nearly anything that triggers the fear of negative for the person listening. Or might not shed the best light on the positive adoption experience plan.

            Sometimes it’s used to silence. It makes me angry.
            When I see it in it’s naive beginnings, or when it’s new, well intended and un-studied – I find concern and worry. I know all too well what that positive cute bunny can morph into. I hate seeing that happen. So I type seeming nonsense 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          • Lisa-Jane Erwin

            December 11, 2018 at 8:11 pm

            TAO, I agree. I think many AP’s internalize trauma stories as having done something wrong rather than recognizing that adoption cannot occur without trauma. Again, my situation is different than most because there is no denying my child’s trauma. I can either help to mitigate it, or I can increase it through denial and/or poor decision making but there is no denying it. I chose to enter into my child’s traumatic life believing that I can make a difference in outcome for him and that we can become a healthy, thriving family he can look to for support. But, entering his trauma has been no joke. I can no longer live my life apart from his trauma.

            People who adopt infants and/or pre-verbal children tend to think that a child who cannot verbalize trauma is not experiencing trauma. Even my family and friends tend to smooth over my son’s trauma. I hate when people tell him how lucky he is to have me as his mother. It’s like saying it’s such a blessing your mother died and you were orphaned and homeless. Like who says that? It took me four years to bring my son to safety. Over the course of those four years I devoted a lot of time and energy to asking people not to minimize his trauma with those kinds of sentiments. It was all to no avail. It happens every single day. I interrupt it when I can, but I finally came to terms with my inability to control for that dynamic. Our truth includes accepting that there are insensitive, clueless people in the world. I do what I can to make our home and relationship safe and deal with the “Other” as life on life’s terms.

            Liked by 1 person

            • TAO

              December 11, 2018 at 8:15 pm

              Again, no idea why you are going to moderation, will dig in this afternoon to see if I can find out why.

              Liked by 1 person

            • TAO

              December 11, 2018 at 8:32 pm

              Couldn’t find a reason, the only thing I can think of is if you add/subtract one little thing on your name, even an extra space it sends you to moderation. Or wordpress has glitches.


        • beth62

          December 7, 2018 at 4:43 am

          Why do those words positive and negative tend to confuse or derail or… I don’t know the word. It seems to be difficult to talk about or explain positive and negative stuff. And why do two negatives equal a positive 😉
          Maybe there is some tricky math working with positive and negative, some magic magnetic electrical alchemy thing. Maybe when you add attitude in the mix it makes it hard to see all the different things spinning around in there at one time 😜
          I get what everybody is saying, but have no idea how to explain it in words that make sense in all directions.

          I can add that some people just don’t do negative conversations. My mom would call it controversial subjects, which are negative to her. Especially at dinner 🙂 sort of like religion, politics, negative news, medical procedures, or topics they can include. That we can easily comp!ain about, with hopes and ideas of positive change.
          I would just call it stuff to talk about usually, when not at dinner of course 🙂 Like open records, searching, secrets and lies, relationships, anxieties, fears, angers, triggers, current news, literature, science, nature, religion, all that stuff in life and wonderland.

          My mom is always at dinner when it comes to Adoption 🙂 with religion too I guess. So wonderland, religious or political topics of adoption, “the controversial” just isn’t welcomed by her. That’s just how she is. She’s well over 80 now, but I’m still positive about it and keep hope that she’ll crack and speak her mind, her negatives, the things she knows that could be changed for the better. Things that could help others feel less alone. Over 50 years of adoption wisdom I’d really love to hear one day.
          I don’t poke at her about it anymore. I think she just holds tight to positive, and I can’t blame her, It helps. I do too, we’re all scared of the negative, especially the big one

          Did that make any sense? 😕

          Liked by 2 people

          • TAO

            December 7, 2018 at 2:18 pm

            There’s hope for your mom if she’s only in her 80’s, when mom turned 90 a dam broke and one day she said damn. And yes, I did have to pick my jaw off the floor, I can only remember a handful of times she even used darn because it was a replacement for a swear word so it had to really bad to use it, mind you, she was dealing with cancer pain when she used damn. But that damn seemed to free her to talk more of the hard, the hard we dealt with as a family, not all, but less stiff upper lip and more silent tears of the sadder times.

            I think when you are born before the great depression started, and then grow into adulthood while it is still has the nation in its grip, the stiff upper lip and no complaining if you have food in your belly and a roof over your head becomes your permanent mantra to survive. I think it’s hard to view anything after as bad…


    • Stephanie (Tia)

      December 7, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      Lisa, there is a fuller context here that makes this a subtle form of adoption-denial. Another example is “adoption is event not identity.” Yikes.

      At least if I’m understand what TAO is saying and if I do, then I agree. In fact, this stuff is one of my most frustrating things to deal with in adoption groups that have APs, adoptees and first parents together because APs are often expressing subtle anti-adoption sentiments while simultaneously accusing adult adoptees of being the ones who are anti-adoption, usually because of a fictitious bad experience pulled out their own head.

      It’s so hard to explain with words and TAO has come closer than I’ve seen before. It’s the combination of needing so badly to position adoption as positive that to critique even things that are obviously, *obviously* really really messed up about adoption — such as coercion — is to be labeled anti-adoption, bitter adoptee who had a bad experience. I can’t tell you how prevalent this is. APs who have to work this hard to make everything GLORIOUS when it is not are exposing something within themselves they need to fix, whereas APs who see the issues with us and link arms with us to listen, care and help address things are the ones who really can deeply accept the way their family was formed. And they can deeply accept their child’s complex experience in adoption. The fully “positive or bust” folks are – I guarantee – forcing their child to suppress their struggle to take care of their parent emotionally.

      I don’t think this is about the more general positive you are referring to, but more the glaring kind of everything must be 100% positive or nothing is.

      Liked by 5 people

      • TAO

        December 7, 2018 at 2:01 pm

        Thanks Stephanie and yeah, it’s really hard to explain the disconnect, what’s allowed by role you hold, what’s required if an adoptee dares to speak. Just the disclaimer hoops an adoptee feels they must offer before *whispering in gentle words* the smallest concern on adoption, then ducks head and waits to be pummeled for being anti…

        I refuse to offer disclaimers anymore protesting my undying love for mom and dad…but I still try to frame my words as gently as I can as I want to be heard…

        Liked by 1 person

    • Lesley Earl

      December 11, 2018 at 5:16 pm

      Oooo “you understand the potential for adversity and you want to do all you can to prevent it.” Sadly YOU cannot prevent it. The child Young or old Will experience it and while you can be there to provide support you are Not experiencing it. You get the experience of the parent who hurts because the child is in agony.


  4. beth62

    December 6, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    I guess it’s not too strange that this has been in my thoughts in a same way for the last few days? :/
    We did get to see so much of it on center stage for a month. In all it’s positive glory.
    I appreciate the positive very much, even celebrate the positive with many. But dang, I can’t help but laugh a little, if you want “the adoption” to be something put behind, why are you talking about it now, and only using it to banish the negative, publically?

    “if you need to make adoption a “positive experience”, then you see it as a negative”

    “it just tells your child you don’t want to deal with the hard.”

    That’s what I heard from my kind, good and dearly loved parents.
    It was far heavier than anything said. Using the positive caused a great divide between us, that didn’t need to be there. Fairly ironic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TAO

      December 6, 2018 at 7:31 pm

      I prefer a it just is attitude…


  5. Sally Bacchetta

    December 11, 2018 at 12:42 am

    Wow. This is… a major eye-opener for me. As an AP I’ve always thought of adoption as an event, not an identity; more importantly – I thought that was a healthier, more balanced perspective along the “Your life is what you make it” vibe. I don’t believe I am (or my children are) defined by any life event or experience; rather, I’m a constellation of everything I’ve done, been, encountered, etc. It’s all important and relevant and Who I Am. I’ve never considered it adoption denial until I read yoru post, Tao, and Stephanie’s comments. Now I’m re-thinking.


    • TAO

      December 11, 2018 at 12:58 am

      Mull on it for awhile and see how it feels. Glad to see you Sally.


    • TAO

      December 11, 2018 at 1:06 am

      “I’m a constellation of everything I’ve done, been, encountered, etc. It’s all important and relevant and Who I Am.”

      Which for me, includes adoption that fundamentally altered the course my life has taken that has led to done, been, encountered…the but for wasn’t just an event, it’s part of all I am.


      • Sally Bacchetta

        December 11, 2018 at 2:24 am

        Yes, Tao, you’ve hit on exactly what I’m re-thinking. As always, I’m grateful to you for having these conversations.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Lesley Earl

      December 11, 2018 at 5:38 pm

      “Your life is what you make it” that is what my parents taught us as well. ”
      Sadly that is not true. O… I realize on many levels that is the goal in life to be responsible for self. Unfortunately that is not possible when trauma is not acknowledged or known about. So at 64 2 and 1/2 years in on Trauma Counselling I learned I’ve been accepting responsibility for the messes of my life however they were NOT my responsibility. They were the responsibilities of the adults and the professionals who were attempting to manage me. They appear to have taken the easy out of absolving themselves of responsibility at my expense. My responsibility is to get to my therapist weekly and to learn about trauma now. Sadly I had to live through all the messes that I created (unknowingly) my whole life and now my old age consists of unpacking all this garbage and grieving. Not a happy person here


      • Sally Bacchetta

        December 12, 2018 at 1:19 am

        “Unfortunately that is not possible when trauma is not acknowledged or known about.” Thanks, Lesley. And I’m sorry you’ve got so much to deal with. 😦


  6. cb

    December 11, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    With Patricia Irwin Johnston’s “Respectful Adoption Language”, she says this:
    ” Phrasing it in the present tense– “Kathy is adopted”–implies that adoption is a disability
    with which to cope. ”

    I say that I “am adopted” but it is a big leap to assume that when some says “am/is” adopted that they are implying it is a “disability with which to cope”. I say “am” becaause it is a factor in my life just as other things are factors. If someone says “I am tall”, they are not saying it is a “disability with which to cope” but talking about something that is a fact and may be of relevance at times. Same with being adopted. I “am” adopted. It is a factor in my life and there are times when it is relevant in my life. Also being in reunion, I am not sure how one can be anything but “is adopted”, after all one is dealing with relationships that one wouldn’t have if one wasn’t adopted.

    Also I get that people use “was” adopted because they don’t want to “treat their child different”, yet if you are ignoring adoption as a factor in your adopted child’s life, aren’t you actually leaving out “a factor” that is part of what makes them them and thus treating them differently? If say you had a bio and adopted child, you would then be saying “I consider all factors to be relevant in my bio child’s life but I consider all factors BUT adoption to be relevant in my adopted child’s life”.


    • cb

      December 11, 2018 at 8:18 pm

      • beth62

        December 12, 2018 at 1:10 am

        She wants to believe that since those like my mother and I, who never laid eyes on each other for even a second, were never united before our separation. So to be respectful and realistic, forty years later, we should call it a meeting, not a reunion.


  7. beth62

    December 12, 2018 at 12:47 am

    The author of that one is obviously confused! Don’t read that one anymore cb! There is so much twisted in that one. I’m tired just reading it.



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