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Adoption Narratives

11 Sep

I stumbled on an interesting study from 2011 on Adoptees and how our “Adoption Entrance Narratives” may shape how we view our adoption. It’s relatively short and starts off on how adoption researchers rely heavily on minute differences between the adopted and non-adopted children, and how they need to take a more nuanced understanding of the self-concept variables in the adopted population. (Ya think…)

The study then talks about how the Adoption Entrance Narratives play a role in how we (adoptees) integrate adoption and our adoption story into our own narrative. It also notes that adoptees have to work to understand the “layers of complexity” to get there, which to me means all the why questions I’d guess every adoptee knows all to well, and yes, I’ve asked all those why questions, and I’ve adapted my adoption story and added context to it as I delved into it over the years.

I got interested while reading the paragraph below that created the first research question that acknowledged prior research focused on the adoptive parents point of view. Not shocked at all that research focuses on the adoptive parents over the one adopted. It’s always been that way, why I think adoptive parents chime in when a question is asked to adoptees.

“Thus, adoptees’ version of their stories likely illuminates the theorized connection between family stories and individual identity development, yet research to date has neglected the adoptees’ versions of their stories. Researcher on adoption storytelling has focused solely on the parents’ point of view (Grotevant et al., 1999; Krusiewicz & Wood, 2001). Although this is valuable information, an understanding of adoptees’ perceptions and internalization of these parental messages will provide researchers with an understanding of how these communicative forces play out in adoptees’ lives. Thus, we pose the following research question:”

RQ1: What are the themes in adoption entrance narratives from the perspective of adopted individuals?

It sparked my interest so I saved it to read later. It’s worth your time to read and it’s less than 12 pages long with parts you can skip. Page 10 has a table of Adoption Entrance Narratives each with it’s on theme:

The Adoption Entrance Narrative Categories Themes are: Openness, Deception, Chosen Child, Fate, Difference, Rescue, Reconnection.

There are lots of tidbits woven into the study and I think you need to read it yourself. I found it interesting and have tried to ask myself which Adoption Entrance Narrative category I’d fit in, and it’s complicated, and I think I’m a mix of Openness, Difference, Reconnection, and yes, even the Chosen Child. And below I’ll try to explain why I think I’m a mixed bag of specific categories.

Openness – neither mom or dad shied away from talking to us about adoption, why they adopted, what they knew of our stories; nor were they shy telling others they adopted us, or why they adopted. It was never in a we saved them way, just a matter of fact this is ‘who we are’ way – take it or leave it. And most readers know mom and dad opened a siblings adoption, and when I asked mom to petition for cause to unseal my records, she did. So from the BSE there were some parents like mine who weren’t insecure or worried about secrecy.

Chosen Child – yes, I know it sounds strange for me to identify that category, but mom had said no to the SW twice when asked to adopt me for very good reasons based on her life, not me. Then Dad said yes, and that was that. My reality if mom and dad hadn’t adopted me was that maybe over time the county SW would have found me a home, the other reality was growing up in foster care or a children’s home. Those were the only realities because when I was 4 days old, my mother had gone before the judge and relinquished her parental rights, the deal was done and no going back. Note my family didn’t know I didn’t have a home to go to, they assumed I did, and I actually was, but then, I was taken out of that home, they never told mom why, so, yet another mystery in my adoption story.

Difference – physically, I was the odd one out in the family, I had no physical similarity to any of them, I stood out as the odd man out, nothing you could even try to say we had in common. I was similar to dad in quite a few way, both personality and interests for the most part, but I was also different from him in other ways, so not sure if this category fits for me.

Reconnection – I remember going through the personal ads every year on my birthday looking for a coded message from my mother, there never was, but even after I moved away, I had a friend check the local paper for me. So I always wanted to reconnect and never feared doing so.

If you read the study – what did you think?

 
9 Comments

Posted by on September 11, 2021 in Adoption, adoptive parents

 

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9 responses to “Adoption Narratives

  1. andestanley

    September 12, 2021 at 11:44 pm

    This sounds really interesting. Thank you for sharing! I will have to look it up.

    Liked by 1 person

     
  2. cb

    September 13, 2021 at 10:02 pm

    An interesting study.

    I note at the bottom, they say this “This study’s findings have both practical and theoretical implications. Practically, these
    findings could inform adoption practitioners and adoptive parents on the most beneficial
    types of adoption entrance narratives for adoptees. Educating on adoption issues helps
    parents construct healthy discursive messages and, consequently, help adoptees create
    positive identities”

    I do think they should be wary of using any of their “findings” in this way. According to the survey, the “chosen” crowd have the highest self esteem yet I don’t agree that that would be the most beneificial type of adoption entrance nrrative. To me, being open and honest (i.e. just telling what one knows without embellishment etc) is the best way to go.

    Also, in regards the “chosen” theme, quite often when I see an adoptee online talk about “being chosen”, they often use the same language as was told to them at the time they were told, so they often sound like a 7 year old rther than an adult – it feels a bit like “this is what I was told but don’t want ot challenge or deconstruct it anyway so I will share the narrative exactly as I was told at the time”.

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    • TAO

      September 13, 2021 at 10:51 pm

      Agree, I found it interesting as a grown adoptee, but for professionals to use it, no. It’s way to vague in many ways, but for reflection as an adult – interesting.

      Like

       
  3. cb

    September 13, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    As for the themes:
    Openness: I think that is one of the things my parents did right – in fact, more so than many of today’s so-called better educated parents.

    Chosen child: I am just going to touch on the basic concept of being “chosen”. One problem with “being chosen”, eg if say one has been “chosen” for a team is that there can be a feeling of indebtedness by the chosen person towards the “chooser”, after all, they might not have been “chosen” at all. Also, there may be a tendency to put the “chooser” on a pedestal, eg “fancy little old me getting chosen by you, aren’t I lucky?”.

    Difference: Lookswise, there was some similarity in colouring (we all have dark hair). Except for my sister, we were all far taller than our parents. I think as we grew older, we all had different personalities. Although my younger brother and I were probably the most difficult of the children, I think as an adult, my personality was closest to my parents. From what I’ve heard about my bmom and from my own feelings re how I fit into bfamily, I am fairly similarin personality to them, so I think my innate personality complemented my parents personalities in that we are all quieter individuals. There was a lot of difference too.

    Reconnection: I suppose I was a bit like “hoped for the best but feared the worst”, in the end it was a moot point because my bmother had died quite young. I suppose I just assumed she had “moved on” and didn’t want her life disurpted so I didn’t make any move. It wasn’t until the advent of the internet that I decided to even bother seraching (and found a cemetery record straight away).
    By the time I decided to reconnect with extended family, I decided that whatever the outcome was, I would be OK with it, although I am glad that they were very welcoming .

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    • TAO

      September 13, 2021 at 10:49 pm

      Ya, the Chosen theme – struggled to include it, because of all you said. But I was trying my best to step back and be clinical.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • cb

        September 13, 2021 at 11:25 pm

        As for the “fate” thing, I can’t sand that for a variety of reasons, it seems to “privilege the privileged”, it also often ignores reality and skims over things like poverty, sexism, racism etc.

        Liked by 3 people

         
        • TAO

          September 14, 2021 at 2:46 pm

          Nailed it.

          Like

           
        • beth62

          September 17, 2021 at 2:23 pm

          Ever since I heard my self absorbed husband overuse and claim fate, saying everything in my life happened so I would meet and marry him, all so he could have me and our kids in his life…
          Just another way to say, Not my problem, it’s all good, shut up and get over it. The reality of others ignored for your own gain.
          yes, privilege the privileged is perfect.

          Liked by 2 people

           
        • legitimatebastard

          September 29, 2021 at 6:03 pm

          Yes, exactly. Fate, it was God’s will that we adopted you….

          CB, thank you for saying “it seems to ‘privilege the privileged'”. You words describe it so well.

          I’ve often felt it. Others love to point out to me that fate brought me to be adopted by these parents, when it wasn’t that way at all. My mother died. Her cousin’s half-brother wanted a baby. It was a kind of in-family, but distant in-family and word-of-mouth chain of information thing that led to my adoption. They were the privileged recipients of the baby left behind by the death of her mother and her father had no supports.

          And this is why I keep repeating it. This is MY birth. My relinquishment and then MY adoption. I see no happy narritive here. No one (outside of we who read these blogs and feel the losses) seems to understand it from my point of view. All the while I grew up I felt an obligation to my adoptive parents. It wasn’t a two-way street. They weren’t honest, nor open with me about MY truths. It was all about them, their needs, their desires to raise an infant – to have the experience of parenting.

          But when the shit hit the fan when my full blood siblings found me, well! Theyhad no choice but to fess up to the truth!

          I’m the one who paid the price for their selfishness.

          Fate. God’s Will.

          Nope. Cancer. Poverty. No one helping my father keep me. No childcare. Let’s just sing the praises of the BABY who we now can re-name and pretend she’s ours and only ours…

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