An adopter writes – some 300 women who’d adopted one or more children in the prior two years, Karen J. Foli, an assistant professor of nursing at Purdue, says that she and her team—including Susan South and Eunjung Lim—began examining societal assumptions about adoptive parents. Among them: the belief that the mother who doesn’t carry a child for nine months or doesn’t go through labor does not require as much help after the child comes home, does not need respite care, or someone to unload the dishwasher, or a few casseroles in the freezer.
I had certainly assumed as much. I didn’t take maternity leave, feeling at some deep level that I neither needed it nor earned it. I kept up with my reporting and writing assignments, underestimating the importance of just rolling around on the floor with our new baby, who likely was grieving the sudden absence of his beloved foster mom. I didn’t feel that I “deserved” as much help as my friends who’d given birth had received. I found myself questioning my authenticity as Jake’s mother. I’d look at Jake and think: This child came from another woman’s body. Who am I to say I am his mother?
So much here that’s tragic – tragic for the adoptee and for all the adoptees in this situation. If an adopter could take maternity leave but didn’t, why not? Isn’t it bonding time for the child, a time to build security and begin a relationship in a way which will never come again? Surely that special time is important and essential for the building of a solid parent-child bond, especially in adoption, when it is even more important to give the adoptee time, attention, care, love and support in grieving and loss, adjustment. It seems to be all about what the adopter needs and wants and little about what the child requires as a necessary part of childhood.
Perhaps post-adoption depression is in part about a sudden or not so sudden realisation that the reality of being a parent and caring adequately for an adoptee takes so much more dedication, committment, skill, time, devotion, love and plain hard graft than was ever imagined, prepared for or hinted at by those who were supposed to be providing training and preparation. Adopters are being badly let down, short-changed and set up for problems, by the inadequacies of agencies and those who work for them and are allowed, encouraged and permitted to get away with second and third best. In the end it is adoptees who will suffer, have suffered and who bear the brunt of the deficiencies, the lack of realism, the inadequacies and the mental health issues which we know from the stories of adult adoptees, their accounts of their parenting often predominate and cause life long difficulties. When adoption has as it’s foundation bad home studies/assessments and applicants are poorly screened and the overlay is as already mentioned, what hope is there that adoptees will find families who can raise them well enough, support them unswervingly enough and address those particular beginnings of loss and trauma, grief and mourning?
Jean Mercer, known to many as a clinical psychologist and adopter, once stated that post-adoption depression in adopters would not be increasing if adult adoptees stopped going on about the primal wound!! Many of us felt blamed by that comment; perhaps there is an element of truth in it – if we shut up, adopters wouldn’t have discovered it is a big issue and wouldn’t have got the message that it is something that has to be dealt with, can’t be swept under the carpet or locked in the closet. What spoilers we were to bring the primal wound out into the open, to talk about it freely in so many forums, on blogs and other places! Perhaps Nancy Verrier is to blame for ‘inventing’ the primal wound, writing her much read book about it and for giving Jean Mercer so much work to do in trying to disprove something that can’t be proven or disproven because that would be unethical. Many psychologists don’t seem too bothered about the ethics and are quite prepared to carry out experiments on young children which disturb, confuse, upset, possibly harm and damage in the interest of discovery of things any grandmother could tell you at no expense. We still see today separated twins described as if they are some sort of living experiment, a freak show and a novelty, because they feel as the rest of us do and have deep feelings for their twin.
There are many cruelties in the world of adoption, inhumanity perpetrated by individuals and groups, communities and businesses, churches and agencies, governments and institutions, among them the separation of twins, the neglect in finding the very best families for children who really need them, the lack of ethics and the corruption, must surely rank at the top of the scale. When a woman looks at an adoptee and says Who am I to say I am his mother?< and has not dealt with what it really means to be an adopter, to raise the baby of another woman and is not supported to find the answers, to make the very best she can of the task with preparation that begins long before placement and long before approval, then adoption is profoundly failing adoptees and will continue to do so while it exists in it’s current form.