A recent comment on a post by a fellow adoptee who made a very definite decision about her name and status as an adoptee, had one mother commenting in a way I found patronising, very personal, although it was claimed the adoptee was not known and seemed to assume that the liberating and empowering decision arose out of pain. My fellow adoptee dealt with it much more graciously than I know I would have! Why is it that the decisions we make and the actions we take to empower ourselves must be considered/assumed to come from pain? There are so many other places for empowerment to come from, for good decisions that affect our future to be part of and for our lives to be changed by our actions. Just like ‘normal’ people!!
We see so often when we read or write about adoption, our adoption, that others assume adoption is our whole life, that it is all-consuming, all we think about and all we do. How many times have those of us who blog pointed out that writing and thinking about adoption takes up maybe 1% of our lives, maybe at some times more, maybe less. It is incontrovertible that adoption for most adoptees is a hot topic, especially for adoption activists and that it confronts us in the most unlikely places. We can never be free of our adopted status and are forever reminded of our adoption wherever we turn and we have no control whatsoever over when we have to deal with. It comes to us in a million ways. It may be in advertising, in something we read or see, in questions or comments from others, in the use of words by others, in events happening in our own or some other country, in movies, tv programs, magazines and books, on social media and in our own environment. We see it everywhere, whether we are looking or not looking and it cannot be avoided, we cannot pretend we didn’t see it, didn’t respond to it in some way and for many of us it is unwelcome, it is uninvited and sometimes pushed upon us.
The world seems to be in love with adoption. It makes a great theme for fictional accounts, documentaries, reality shows etc. Even Agatha Christie used it time and time again. One of her stories has a whole family of adoptees and of course one is the villain, as we so often are. Agatha Christie’s generally accurate view of adoptees and her presentation of plausible dialogue has always made me believe she had some ‘insider’ knowledge. I have never been able to prove or disprove it and I had a very cool brush-off from the Agatha Christie Society when I once suggested it!!
It’s impossible to turn on the T.V. without finding a program with adoption somewhere in it. I know that, like me, many of you avoid these if you can and luckily the previews often give us all the information we need to know that triggering viewing is in sight. Yesterday after viewing one program with a ‘fake’ adoptee i.e someone impersonating an adoptee, a real adoptee incarcerated for her whole life and a distraught mother, the previews came up for two more shows which follow each other tonight, both with adoptees, one missing presumed abbducted and dead and the other showing a gruelling birth and removal scene. Nice!! Such fun viewing! When I groaned, my companion remarked that “You can’t have it both ways”, meaning we can’t want to be invisible and and at the same time have others understand the pain, trauma and loss of adoption. It is of course more complicated than that and that would need a post of it’s own!
Those of you who use Amazon will know that you only have to view a book on adoption or purchase one, to be forever bombarded with information about other books on adoption, whoever they written by and whatever the focus. That is often difficult, even offensive, because it presents information which is directly opposed to one’s own views, beliefs or principles. It is unasked for, impossible to avoid and has to be accepted.
In addition we each have our individual triggers, things which trigger memories, thoughts, ideas, painful remembrances of our own adoption or adopted life. For me it has been for many years the black and white photos of babies in cots in orphanage nurseries. They have for my whole life caused me great pain and it is only recently since the Inquiry into forced adoption when these photos have had much more exposure, that I have been able to get to grips with that pain. On this occasion changes for me came out of pain, but it must never be assumed, as our commenter above did, that changes for adoptees necessarily come out of pain. As I write I see she’s been at it again, commenting about angst and pain being behind something an adoptee has done. A simple case of projection perhaps. Changes for all can come from so many places other than pain.
It is sad that a mother should consider that adoptee pain should promote such change, although it may do, and not appear to see the breadth of experience which is available to promote change, the many things we learn, have and know, which empower and bring us to learning, change, growth, development and new places in our lives. This type of thinking seems yet again to attempt to fix us in a neat box which is dealable with, can be managed, because the magnitude of opportunities open to us is not considered. We so often see attempts made to put limiters on us, to box us up, make us manageable and able to be dealt with by ignoring the tricky aspects, the messy edges, the untidy bits and pieces which aren’t easy to grasp, understand or are hard or challenging to accept. Sadly by not attempting to think outside the box, there is no advancement in understanding or appreciation of the very real effects of adoption on adoptees, often by the very people who would most benefit if they could grasp the nettle, find the courage to do the hard yards when they are so involved in their own struggles and help create a new climate of real cooperation.
Adoptees not only have their own cultures to deal with – the one they were born into, the one they were adopted into, but also the cultural heritage of adoption. Each country has it’s own practices, history and stories which we are part of as citizens, adoptees of that country and subjects/victims or whatever was decided as appropriate/inflicted on us/thought to be good practice. We are also subject to whatever is popular thinking in adoption circles at the time. For instance, I am a victim of forced adoption and belong in a particular group of War babies who’s mothers had no choice and were coerced by the expectations of parents, society, institutions. I have had that fact questioned by a mother of loss from Origins, as have other adoptees about their adoptions, when doubt was thrown on their ‘status’ in a most cruel and insensitive way. One of my fellow adoptees, a victim of black market adoption, was informed that her ‘status’ was therefore not as an adoptee because she’s not a ‘real’ adoptee! It emphasises yet again that adoptees are not seen as the ‘experts’ on their own adoptions and others view themselves as more knowledgeable or better placed to pass judgement on our lives and our stories. That has become increasingly unacceptable whatever it’s source.
Other adoptees are victims of whatever was being practised in their country and maybe also their receiving country at the time of their birth. We see some of the well known and well established American agencies with long developed cultures of belief, where adoptees are invited to comment and use their own adoption as advertising for the agency. They say things like this about their mothers –
Because of you I’m alive. I’m blessed and I have an awesome family.
I am thankful for you because if you didn’t make the choices that you did, the people that I call mom and dad, would have just been known as Pam and Lou.
Because of you I have been able to share a lot with others, about my faith and god’s providence.
Because of you I have a great mom and dad and brother and I love them all.
Because of you I feel protected and I’m home.
Out of all of the things that you could’ve done, you thought about me and what would be best for my future.
Because of you I know what it means to be a strong Christian woman and even though I’ve never met you I will never stop loving you.
In addition, we adoptees have built a world culture of adoption, which includes all of the above aspects, enables adoptees to express their views and experiences and hopefully in time will be completely inclusive of all experience and of all the stages of adoption. Young adoptees will need mentors, to be able to find adult adoptees who understand what they are experiencing, feeling and confronting. The more a country embraces the cult of adoption as a beautiful salvation, the more young adoptees will need to have the support of those who do not.
And a link to an excellent post by Daniel, a must read – http://danielibnzayd.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/on-adoption-surrogacy-and-birthright/#more-312
Just to end with something completely unrelated, those of you who are fans of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” may know that the hotel and the final destination was Mario’s in Broken Hill, a beautiful, well-loved old building in a mining town. Here’s the upstairs verandah, built to catch the breezes and to be enjoyed. Enjoy!
This photo of Mario’s Palace Hotel is courtesy of TripAdvisor