The Clash

Interesting post by Karen at

When Adoptees and Birth Mothers Clash.

It seems so vital for adoptees that we can be free to raise our concerns and difficulties about adoption, our mothers and our relationships to them, without judgement, censure and those things we Aussie adoptees have become used to over the last two years – ridicule, abuse, judgement, disbelief, sarcasm, lack of validation, insults, assumptions and exclusion. We have been called the ‘Johnny-come-latelies’, meaning I suppose that we are late to the party, late to speak about adoption and it’s effects and late to call for change. There are adoptees who have been campaigning for as long as mothers, but they seem to be overlooked. Many, many adoptees contributed to the Inquiry into forced adoption and contributed very significantly to the Apologies. Those few mothers who want to and can recognise our input have, those who prefer to criticise, question our right to contribute and try to set rules for our involvement have. What’s new?
Anyone who knows anything about abuse knows that it takes victims a long time, sometimes decades, to be able to speak out about what has happened to them. Getting non-adoptees to understand and accept that mother-loss and adoption are abusive is a huge hurdle, particularly if they were in some way involved in the creation of an adoptee. We now have the recognised era of forced adoption, which absolves mothers of responsibility. It is also the era of the Invisible Australians, those of us who were rendered invisible by adoption, who had our identities wiped out and who were forced to live a completely different life, to live with lies and who will always live with lies about our earliest days and months. There are some of us who will never know, grey market and black market adoptees, vetoed adoptees who are barred from knowledge of themselves and then the rest of us who can never be certain we have been told the truth, no matter how ‘open’ people have been with us, because they have interpreted events to suit themselves, according to what they have remembered, want to remember and want or do not want to impart. We are at the mercy of the memories of others, the goodwill of others and the intentions of others and it is not an empowering place to be, will never be and there is no way to change that. We can only change our attitude to it, to the information, the knowledge of it and it’s importance to us.
There are times in life when it feels vital to know details of our past, as others do and that leaves us vulnerable to exploitation, manipulation, deception and abuse. We have seen tragic examples of adoptees tricked, conned or kept on a string for years, the carrot of information dangled temptingly before them only to turn into the hot potato. The explosion of searching adoptees on Facebook brings doubts and concerns about exploitation of the vulnerable, who so often clutch at straws, will accept things which ordinarily they would not, I know I’ve been there and it is a horrible place to be.
I was in communication for years with a woman who was the same age and had the same name as my mother. She stated straight away that she was not my mother, although believed we were related, probably true although I have never pursued it. My then partner managed to convince me that she was lying and was in fact my mother who had conceived me with her brother, so that I was the product of incest! I went through torments over it and some situations which make me cringe with embarrassment and discomfort. I learned valuable lessons, including to never, ever trust a sociopath! I learned also that the adoptee’s wounds run deep and leave a vulnerability and a desperate need for information and truth that can take us to dangerous places. I see the exploitation of adoptees all the time; in reunion shows where they’re ‘willing’ participants; in movies such as Mercy, Mercy where I doubt Masho was given choice and if she was it was the choice of an exploited, vulnerable child; in genetic testing; in the questions and comments of non-adoptees who want adoptees to have all the answers, do all the work and be responsible for change as well as being the victims of adoption; in adoption itself which commodifies, provides products for a market, fills quotas and makes people rich. I could go on, adoptees get it, the rest of you need to think about it, seriously, until you join the dots.
When the fundamental differences between adoptees and mothers are pushed under the carpet, often out of respect for mothers, it seems the sort of discussions which change things will never happen. They sometimes happen on an individual basis where there is willingness and often an age difference. Encouragingly, I have found the mothers most likely to engage in productive discussion are not of my generation and sadly the ones least likely to are of my generation. It is very sad to see such stuckness, such inflexibilty and such a well rehearsed party line that can’t be departed from and old assumptions and ideas firmly held to, particularly when they are not true and do not serve any of us well. I am reminded of a mother, who questioned why an adoptee such as myself would want to contribute to the Inquiry because I had a ‘good adoption’! Another rounding on me for insisting that my generation of adoptees, the War Babies, (a group not subject to the adoption industry because there wasn’t one in 1944 as there is now), a tiny minority doesn’t really count or matter!! In other words – sit down and shut up! What mattered to her was that she believes I ‘attack’ mothers when I tell the truth of it i.e I challenge assumptions, will not accept what is not correct and like to be accurate. The problem with party lines is that they are inflexible, don’t allow for change or individuality and are therefore particularly unsuited to matters of adoption. Maybe mothers who were told a set number of reasons for adoption and tried to believe them find it hard to give up the idea that we –
❤ had a better life
❤ had parents would could give us more material things
❤ would be better off with two parents who were married
❤ would benefit from not being illegitimate
❤ would be a clean slate
❤ would be happy and just like all the other adoptees
❤ would be grateful for having been given a better chance in life
❤ would never think about our mother, want to know about her, want to know her or want to ask her about our conception and birth
Perhaps it never occurred to mothers that we might be abused by adoption, how very painful would that be to contemplate? However it is now well know that mother-loss damages, adoption is traumatic and that each adoption is unique and every adoptee has a story to tell which is not quite like the stories of other adoptees. Adoptees have many things in common but no assumptions can be made, the complexities are hard to grasp and the damage is far-reaching. Isn’t it time to move on, drop the old generalisations and for us all to accept and try to understand and appreciate the differences, the uniqueness of each story and be thankful we are not clones, carbon copies of each other, made in each others likeness when we went through the adoption mill.
The unique babies we were, whose loss was and still is often grieved by most mothers, but by no means all, are now unique adult adoptees with courage and strengths, survivors who try to make the best of it. Most of us still struggle with stigma, the effects of adoption, the diseases and illnesses which have resulted from stress in utero and we do the best we can. We survive, most of us, some of us thrive and some of us no longer care what others think of us because we’re too busy living, moving in to the future undaunted by the past and not held back by it, held down by it or allowing it to structure our lives. We acknowledge the loss and trauma and we accept that a life of adoption has many stages, each with a plethora of feelings, goals, revelations and complexities. We deal with those as best we can, on top of the things others go through during the course of life. It is all we have, it is all we know. Some of us, like myself as an older adoptee, have discovered that the rich experiences, the cycles of life, the patterns and the synchronicities give life a depth and breadth that we can eventually accept and be thankful for.

4 thoughts on “The Clash

  1. “When the fundamental differences between adoptees and mothers are pushed under the carpet, often out of respect for mothers, it seems the sort of discussions which change things will never happen.” YES! When adoptees speak out, or ask for recognition, or to be treated as human beings, and we’re told. “But what about OUR pain?” I really have nothing left to say to mothers. So what if it’s apples and oranges? So what if we’re all injured parties?

    What is it, exactly, that we’re all going to *do* about things to make them better, instead of grousing and pointing blame and hiding in closets and saying, “You *made* me do it!” and saying and writing all kinds of hurtful things. Compassion? It must be *so* out of fashion. I am so misanthropic these days and have little faith in humanity when people are so selfish that they take an apology from the government and spit on the children they “wailed” to leave behind when coerced. It makes absolutely no sense to me, and yet there it is: the baseness of human nature, one set of victims to victimise another.

    Where is the action, where is the courage, where is the responsibility? Why must we always spend time on pacification and rumination on “equal” time? Enough, already. Stop demanding “equality” when people are cruel and run roughshod over others. It’s perfectly fine to say, as a friend does, “Your offering me a sh&t sandwich neither makes you magnanimous nor me required to eat it.”

    I also liked your comment over at Karen’s blog, about the separation affecting adoptees from moment one, or at least in the first days and weeks, in a preverbal stage that changes our lives in profound ways. Adoption is a way of life for us; a rewiring of the brain, the formation of a self in trauma. Mothers have a before and after. We have…THIS. It’s not an indictment; it’s a fact. I don’t know what it’s like to be a civilian, and I’ll never know. I was thinking today, though, that it would be lovely to wake up one morning and know nothing of adoption, it infuriates me so.

    • Thanks Mirren for this response and I too know that longing sometimes to wake up a civilian.It gets tiring, it’s relentless, the need to pursue justive, fairness and to stop the abuse, to shed the stigma and all we have been landed with none of which we asked for, invited or would have wanted if we had been asked or been able to have a choice.So often we’re offered the shit sandwich and it takes courage and a strong sense of self to not only refuse but to point out the insult. It seems time for us adoptees, those who are able and are beyond the mummy pleasing stage, to point out the insults and refuse to accept them or listen to them any more. Thanks for being here, much appreciated ❤

  2. I understand everything here completely. Adoption destroyed any chance of true happiness I will ever have. It’s always there, even in the most joyous of moments. Found my family and they say I don’t meet the standards they have as a family because I’m not nice. Non adopted people have absolutely no idea.

    • I’m so sorry, so tough to be judged so harshly. Don’t give up on happiness, adoption doesn’t have to define our lives, it isn’t who we are just something that happened to us. Non-adoptees, however understanding, will never know what it is to live the adopted life, to struggle with the things we do or to develop some of the strengths we do.

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