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Adoptee Loyalty from 2016

16 Sep

The feelings of loyalty that I feel (and expect others feel in varying degrees) can play a significant role in how we talk about our adoption experience; both to our parents throughout our lives, and as adults to others. I’ve wanted to talk on this subject for a while, but worried, I couldn’t tease out a cohesive post explaining why I think it happens. This is my attempt to explain many of the different factors playing into it that I see around me. 

When I was young, I often thought of my other mother, I also had the typical childhood fantasies that go along with it. I never shared either with mom or dad. I never brought any of my deeper feelings up.  I didn’t talk about the feelings of loss. If I did mention anything at all it came out more of a curiosity than anything deeper. But I had those feelings. The feelings of not being good enough. The feelings of being rejected, and expecting everyone to leave me. Believing there had to be something wrong with me they could see, that I couldn’t to answer why they (she) didn’t fight to the end of the earth to keep me. At the same time, logically, I understood why. I never brought any of those feelings up out of feelings of loyalty. 

My loyalty was to mom and dad and you don’t hurt those you love.

As an adult, I’ve wondered if I’d have been less reserved, less protective of their feelings, if the dynamics within the family had been different (a sibling with mental health challenges). I might have, but I also doubt it, because of my personality, who they were to me; combined with the fact that they couldn’t have children, and the recognition that they didn’t have to adopt any of us. To me, that’s why the public’s continued onslaught of telling people adopted they better be grateful makes an adoptee angry, as if, we are so befuddled, ignorant, less-than, that we don’t have the ability of understanding all that, that we need others to explain it to us.

That adoptee loyalty can extend outside of the personal familial relationships, into how we talk to others about our experience being adopted. When I read comments by some adoptees, I look at the carefully formulated responses about their experience, and, I hear, my own modulated responses within their words. I don’t hear pain or joy, I hear protection for their parents against a world made up of biological family norms. I hear the adoptee protecting their parents because adoptive families are different compared to biological families. Other, different, not quite good enough. Our parents are seen as either suspect or saviors, pitied or held up as saints, never just as parents, and us as families. Adoptees are also often seen as troubled, and some are, either from the trauma that they’ve been through, or mental illness, but the broad brush strokes paints all, because we aren’t part of the norm, we are other.

I don’t know how to fix the public perception, what people have done to date hasn’t helped, that much I know, and perhaps, made it worse looking at how the media has covered adoption since I was little. I think they’ve made it worse for the adoptees, because they removed the tragedy of losing a family from the narrative and only focused on the outcome, being adopted. I think that started in the era I was adopted in. Before then, wars and the depression were to vivid in everyone’s mind, to not understand the calamity that befell families, the damage done to more than just the one adopted. Solutions were found, but they weren’t seen as a win, just a solution.

I don’t have any wise words, I just wanted to talk about how loyalty can also silence us, moderate our voices, stories. There are brave adoptee’s who can open up with their deepest feelings. I’m not one. I wish I was, but then, I wouldn’t be me.

Have a safe week and let me know what you’re up to, what you think.

2022 – rereading this old post above and I felt the need to copy the paragraph below. I’ve bolded the part I want to ask readers to really dig deep to question why people in adoption feel the need to pretty-up adoption so people don’t see a child loosing their family as a tragic situation. If people could see that, they may start to understand the adoptee experience better, they may also stop thinking adoption is a benign experience and realize that how a child feels about being adopted may also change as they mature.

“I don’t know how to fix the public perception, what people have done to date hasn’t helped, that much I know, and perhaps, made it worse looking at how the media has covered adoption since I was little. I think they’ve made it worse for the adoptees, because they removed the tragedy of losing a family from the narrative and only focused on the outcome, being adopted. I think that started in the era I was adopted in. Before then, wars and the depression were to vivid in everyone’s mind, to not understand the calamity that befell families, the damage done to more than just the one adopted. Solutions were found, but they weren’t seen as a win, just a solution.

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11 Comments

Posted by on September 16, 2022 in Adoption

 

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11 responses to “Adoptee Loyalty from 2016

  1. Cindy P

    September 17, 2022 at 10:06 pm

    Maybe I’m just in a funk. This is a deep and thought-provoking post. And yet I have no words to describe how I feel about being adopted and that even having known both my biological mom and dad and many many siblings it doesn’t make me feel better about my adoption. There are many days that I’m even more confused about it. I end up telling myself that everyone has these days so maybe it has nothing to do with my adoption. I said earlier that “having known both my biological mom and dad,” well, actually I didn’t really know them at all. I also didn’t really know my adoptive mom and dad. They provided me with what I needed to survive so I’m thankful for that.

    Liked by 2 people

     
    • TAO

      September 18, 2022 at 4:41 pm

      I hate to tell you, but Cindy, you are a perfectly normal adoptee. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that at least 50+ % have similar feelings. I think one of the reasons is we had no words to describe our feelings as littles and muddled along. And now as adults, it’s just a muddle. All said to tell you you are just like many of us – one reason I keep the blog, gives me space to explore complicated feelings. Cheers

      Liked by 3 people

       
    • BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss

      September 18, 2022 at 11:27 pm

      “…the fact that they couldn’t have children, and the recognition that they didn’t have to adopt any of us.” Well, they did “have to” in the sense this was the only way to become parents. I can imagine how hard it was for them to be “the other,” the couple who learned they could not have children. Adopted people also became “the other,” those without biological family. Society did not condemn infertile couples. Society did not stigmatize “illegitimate children,” unless they were raised by an unmarried mother. Adoptive parents were not condemned; sometimes they were glorified. Adopted people may not have been glorified; they were supposed to be “grateful” to have escaped the shame of “illegitimacy.” How horrifying that unmarried pregnant women were instilled with the message that surrendering rights to her “illegitimate” baby was the normal and right thing to do. And yet, she may still feel the shame of “not fighting hard enough,” especially when society later questions “how hard did you fight to keep me [or him/her].” A no win situation.

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  2. Cindy

    September 19, 2022 at 2:04 am

    “…to question why people in adoption feel the need to pretty-up adoption so people don’t see a child losing their family as a tragic situation.”

    Perhaps some of it could be because in acknowledging the child’s tragic loss, others might have to consider the tragic loss of the mother and father of their infant/child.

    It can’t be a “tragic loss of family” if the parents (biological) are less than, or not perfect, or not “equipped” to parent, or too young or, or, or….the list is endless of what we (mothers and fathers) are made out to be. Part of the prettying-up of adoption.

    Adoptees were “rescued”, “delivered from a bad (or potentially bad) situation”, “saved”, and, well, you get the idea. The need to justify. The need to make it pretty because sometimes, and sometimes –often– the ‘reasons’ just plain stunk. Seems like that’s why given, surrendered, and such like terms are so reviled by so many over the prettified language of “made an adoption PLAN”. Yeah, sure keep trying to put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. Sorry. No one involved is a pig..the practice on the other hand…well… maybe could we at least deal in something closer to reality with truth (OBC)?

    I totally get the loyalty, you as adoptees have no other way to navigate what happened to you. It’s a coping skill and survival tool, plus, it’s easy to be loyal to those you love. How could you not be loyal and protective? It’s a lot for one person to carry around and try to navigate, The amount of energy it takes to is considerable. I hope the powers that control the narrative can come to a reasonable place SOON and accept what IS and lose the fairy tale (rescued from ‘monsters’) spin. None in adoption are monsters just real people living real lives.

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss

      September 19, 2022 at 4:28 am

      Yes, the loyalty is completely understandable. It is ingrained in the psyche of adopted people and a societal expectation. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Perhaps many adoption reunions fail when the adopted person feels the guilt of “disloyalty.” Guilt is a powerful emotion and a driving force in people’s lives. Maybe an adoptee even feels guilty for thoughts of wanting to know the first parents. (I’m not discounting that anger may also be present.) I completely agree that an adopted person may struggle with confusing emotions and have no one to share them with lest they be judged. Guilt and feeling judged — powerful.

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  3. Cindy

    September 20, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    Yes Books, the enormous weight that adoptees carry that they, being totally innocent, blameless and in no way responsible, end up feeling responsible for all of it and for protecting everyone’s feelings. Doesn’t sound like ‘best interest of the child” (later adult) to me.

    Adotpees should not be afraid to speak, to say what they feel or need or want. As long as this is supposed to be about the welfare and best (life) interest of an innocent infant /child, they must be given freedom to speak and to be heard. The pain, the loss, the confusion, the rage…the joy, the love, the hopes and dreams, the need to know, the right to have information, to have the *normal every human being asks them* questions answered. We need to stop hiding truth, their truth, their RIGHT to truth and answers. Hiding it does not ‘protect them’…at least I haven’t seen where it does. Adoptees are people. They had no choice and no voice in losing their biological family or in getting another family and then trying to make all the pieces fit. Which is hard to do when the puzzle makers don’t make sure as many of the puzzle pieces as possible are available and others are falsified. Sigh… oh, and the sense of abandonment oh wow… that is something no child should have to carry. The only way I could see to ‘fix’ that is to keep a child with their biological parents…but then, yeah, all the arguments against that, I know, ‘not everyone is fit or ready to be a parent’. The ‘fix’ for that?… don’t have sex. I know, I know….in a perfect world things would be perfect.

    Who has energy and time to carry and deal with all of this? Many cannot or will not and the struggles continue for another generation………….that’s some messed up stuff. I’m sorry for being part of the problem……

    Sorry, I’m rambling again.

    I would love to see adoptees able to say what they want and need to say, when it needs be said.

    The freedom to speak is a gift, the freedom to speak –freely– is a blessing.

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss

      September 20, 2022 at 8:14 pm

      To use an analogy: It’s amazing how Jimmy Jones followers were indoctrinated by him, even to the point of drinking the Kool Aide, whereby adults and their babies died. When adoption became the panacea to redeem social ills, first mothers were influenced by the cult of relinquishment to adoption. Researchers have pointed out that adopted people are more prone to commit suicide than non-adopted people. The number of first mothers who committed suicide is a hidden part of history! Young women were actually told not to speak of their “illegitimate” babies. The mindset of adoption influencers was “forget that it ever happened” and go on with your lives.

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  4. beth62

    September 21, 2022 at 2:59 pm

    If you can’t find the deep understanding of this loyalty ailment at home or in the medical community (which I have not) those in the adoption biz, government, school, church and the general public will surely be of help (that’s sarcasm)

    I didn’t make the following a fact for me, others have made it for me over the last 60 years. I dared to rebel. I believe I am expected to be split in this way by most. I imagine I, and they, should be proud of my accomplishment, errr their accomplishment at the end of this story, it’s been the goal of others, the split within me. I am not proud. And I am certainly not grateful for it, yet I perservered.
    This fact pretty much describes how I feel about adoption loyalty today –

    At 60, I consider myself of the most loyal of loyal daughters and of the most loyal of disloyal daughters.

    Who could make sense of that? 😊
    Who should have to, simply because of adoption?😣

    Like

     
  5. beth62

    September 21, 2022 at 3:17 pm

    I’m fairly certain my fealty towards my adoptive family has never been questioned, unless gaining knowledge of my family of origin and a better undersanding of situations, events or myself was mentioned.
    It’s easy for me to know this part happens due to Adoption ideolgies.
    It’s not me, I am certain of that.

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  6. BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss

    September 21, 2022 at 5:26 pm

    While walking to our cars after a support group, an adoptee/first mother made a single statement that has always stayed with me: “You feel what you feel. Feelings are not right or wrong.”

    Like

     
    • BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss

      September 21, 2022 at 6:34 pm

      Correction of what adoptee/first mother said: “Feelings are not right or wrong. They just are!” [Looks like I put my own interpretation in post above.] I would rather remember exactly what she said.

      Liked by 1 person

       

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