This photo so reminds me of adoption – all is serene on the surface and we are encouraged to ignore those flashing eyes, the feelings of menace, but above all what really lies below the surface ready to overwhelm, engulf or consume us if we are not careful. So many deny or are in ignorance of, or pretend to be in ignorance of what lies below the surface of adoption. It spoils the story, muddies the waters and won’t permit the pretence that adoption is all pretty, that love will conquer all and that all the answers will be given us. Adoption has an underbelly and like most underbellies it is huge, corrupt and enslaves the innocent, the gullible and the vulnerable.
I return again to Kate Adie’s book “Nobody’s Child” –
The numbers of abandoned children in the world are quite shocking, as cited by Adie, who maintains the reasons for abandonment “have never strayed far from poverty, shame, inheritance and indifference”. The harsh treatment of these children on such a grand scale is even more appalling, but this is not a dreary or polemical book. It is witty, gripping and deceptively lightly written. Adie’s empathetic interviews reveal stories of success, resilience and determination to improve the lot of foundlings internationally. But the people who are fighting for this are up against formidable opponents: religion, society’s disapproval, shame and general meanness. Who, after all, is going to pay for the upkeep of these foundlings? No government has ever been keen on stumping up for a decent life for the children of sin.
Somehow, blame always fell on the child; even Oscar Wilde’s Jack Worthing in his “handbag” was reprimanded for losing two parents, and the Christian church seems to have popularised this idea. Once it “began spreading its influence and refining laws about sexual behaviour [illegitimacy] became gradually unacceptable – a sin for both mother and child”. Fathers get off lightly. They are “rarely mentioned in the context of responsibility”. In the 1750s, mothers delivering their children in person to London’s Foundling Hospital formed “a procession of women betrayed”.
Adie’s extensive travels and personal experience enrich her narrative and also provide a sweeping view of the world’s dealings with foundlings. She has been to the specialised institutions, dating back to the 14th century, with their revolving wheels, or turntables, upon which the mother could anonymously place her baby and “with one turn” deliver it safely into the building. Unfortunately, “survival was not built into the system”, and mortality rates were appalling. Even in the greatest of these institutions – the Innocenti in Florence – “90 per cent didn’t make it through their first year”. The reasons for this were hygiene, overcrowding and illness, but also “the almost complete absence of cuddling and affection, of regular, warm human contact”.Review: Nobody\'s Child by Kate Adie | Books | The Guardian.
Fortunately in most places the survival rate of babies is higher these days because they have a market value. For those not sold into adoption, but in to other avenues of exploitation and abuse, early death may have been kinder. For those who are ‘rescued’ by adoption, made ‘legitimate’ and given a life script, the results are patchy to say the least!
Those of you who know a hairdresser, who knows an adoptee or those of you who have adopted brothers who ‘are just fine with it’, may one day come to understand that adoptees do not easily reveal their deepest thoughts, their most difficult feelings about adoption, their dilemmas and struggles. You are not privy to the things they really think and feel about adoption and above all about their adoption. No matter how much they love and trust you, there will be conditions, perimeters and places they will not or cannot go, maybe they don’t even understand those places or know them yet. Adoption is complex. Even for adoptees! Sometimes especially for adoptees! What makes non-adoptees think they can understand and understand it better?