|On my first birthday with my parents|
She leaned a little closer to me and quietly said, "You know, I don't tell a lot of people this, but Bella (name changed for privacy) was adopted."
Bella is her only child, who was five at the time we had this conversation. I had seen them together many times. They are the same race, so no one would immediately assume that Bella is not her biological child.
I shared with her that I was adopted.
She looked at me with surprise and said, "You're so normal! Wow, I can't believe you were adopted! Were your parents amazing? Have you always been okay about being adopted? Do you feel that adoption is a cross you have always had to bear?"
"Yes my parents were amazing. Yes, I have always been okay about being adopted. A cross to bear? No! What makes you ask that?"
"My therapist told me that being adopted is a cross that Bella would always have to bear."
"Have you been worrying about this for five years?"
"Yes" she answered with tears in her eyes.
When Kurt and I began the adoption process, we attended a mandatory adoption informational meeting at our agency. There were several other couples in the meeting. We all were in the early stages of the adopting.
The social worker leading our group, started with a question, "What is the one thing that each member of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptee) have in common?"
The answer was that they have all suffered from loss. The adoptive parents from infertility and the loss of the biological child they dreamed of having. The birth parents suffer the loss of the child. The adoptee suffers from the loss of the birth mother.
I took a deep breath, and leaned forward to speak. Kurt put his hand on my leg. This was not a gesture of affection, but a warning. Just let it go and lets get this class over with. I nodded my consent and was able to remain quiet for about 5 long seconds.
"I don't agree with that. I agree that infertility is a loss, and that it often leads to adoption. Lots of people decided to adopt for reasons other than infertility, including us. Also, I was adopted as an infant. I don't feel as though I have suffered a loss. I know that my birth mother suffered from losing her baby, but I didn't share that loss. She was without her daughter, but I was never without a mother. It's not the same."
Another member of the class, who was familiar with the widely read book, The Primal Wound - Understanding the Adopted Child written by Nancy Newton Verrier, added to the discussion. She said that she had read that all adoptees suffer from the devastating experience of losing their mother and even though they don't remember it, it is still devastating.
The social worker agreed enthusiastically. It was important to her that everyone in the room understood that a child of adoption suffers from loss.
No wonder my friend from the YMCA was worried.
I agree that there is loss in adoption. I know that Mikias and Jemberu have suffered from their losses. I know that my birth parents both suffered from placing their baby for adoption. I know that my parents suffered from their struggle with infertility. I know of other adoptees who upon reading The Primal Wound, felt understood and validated. I accept that. I appreciate that. I believe that if they feel that they suffered a primal wound, that they did. No one can claim that, except for the person who has gone through it. I think to some degree, my older brother suffered from being adopted in a way that I didn't. Every experience is different, even in the same family.
I want to tell you my experience as an adoptee. It is only mine. I expect and accept that your experience is different and uniquely yours.
I have read The Primal Wound, with an open mind. I do not suffer from a primal wound and I resent anyone telling me that because I was adopted, I am wounded. I resent any book that attempts to explain all adoptees. I resent reading that if I feel I don't have a primal wound, that I am in denial.
I did suffer from secrecy. I suffered from lack of information. I suffered from intense curiosity. My adoption took place in the era of closed adoptions. My parents openly shared the information they were given, but it filled only one type-written page, much of which I would later discover was fabricated. I feel all adoptees should have the same rights as our non-adopted peers. The right to know who were were born to, at what hospital, under what circumstances. We deserve to know our own personal and medical histories.
I felt fully a part of my family. I didn't have a 'missing piece'. I didn't feel like an outsider or that I didn't belong.
I never thought that it was my fault that I was adopted, that I wasn't good enough or pretty enough or that I was personally rejected by my birth mother. I always knew that the choices made had nothing to do with me.
When I met my birth parents, it didn't make me feel whole. I already was whole. I was and am grateful to be able to fill in the blanks of my story.
I could go on and on. What I hope that I am able to express is this:
There are challenges that come with adoption but they don't necessarily scar us. Every adoption experience is different and valid. Adoptive parents should read, be aware, talk to others, but most importantly trust themselves and their relationship with their child. Don't assume that anyone knows more than you about your own child.
Most of all, no one should be surprised that a lovely adult was once an adopted child.