“Reading your blog has helped me so much! I also do not have a place in my bio family. It took me a while to realize that, and it still hurts, but not as much as it used to.
I could never change to fit them, and they they do not know me.
Knowing there are others out there, who share my experience helps me.”
Those of us who blog, treasure comments like the above, because someone took the time and trouble to give feedback, because it is so important to hear the stories of other adoptees and because it makes us feel less alone too! Anything that reinforces the bonds of adoptees, increases their understanding of adoption, the importance of telling it how it is and demonstrates the breadth of experience and the similarity of experience is vital in progressing the bulk of our knowledge, in ensuring we are heard and hopefully eventually listened to, validated and treated with respect. We can never demand those things and have to work at them, firstly learning to self-validate, to take our own and each others’ stories seriously and have compassion for the differences. We find so often that some of those who use social media in the adoption sphere think it is acceptable to slam others, to bully and dominate, to invalidate and disempower. They block and delete, spread rumours, false information and cling to ‘propaganda’ and the cult-like rules and teachings of some influential groups or individuals. We even find that talk of Stockholm Syndrome by adopters is so ‘swallowed’ and accepted by vulnerable adoptees that they succumb to the very same process by groups who purport to support and care for them. Some years ago when as Admin of some Facebook Groups I would not knowingly permit those who were members of origins to be part of the group because of the way in which adoptees had been bullied, criticised and so on, by some of the then members and the mindset of the organisation. I was accused of many things which were believed by those who didn’t care to discover the truth. Perhaps too afraid, vulnerable or in need and wanting to be accepted by mothers more than other adoptees. Some of the falsehoods of those times linger on, perpetuated by the one or two here in Australia who still have it in for me and wish to see me discredited. One of them has invented a scenario revolving around the Inquiry into Forced Adoption and my mental health history (I have none!). I mention this because it indicates how very vulnerable adoptees are, how easily led down false paths and how susceptible we are to anyone who holds out their hand or appears to have more knowledge than we do. It seems that the tasks we have and have always had, are to learn to be “out, loud and proud” – to speak up, to refuse to be put down, talked over, dominated and diminished. We are the experts on adoption from the adoptee point of view, no-one else has lived it, survived it, learned it, occupied it as we have. Our learning is unique, individual, and put together, powerful, persuasive and cannot be argued with.
Sadly, there are those non-adoptees who continue to promote their assumptions, views and judgements – “I am absolutely sick to the back teeth of angry adoptees who get total pleasure out of kicking their REAL parents in the face every chance they can get. I have yet to find an adopted person who is not like that. So yes – I have lumped them all together’. This one has been permitted in a Facebook adoption group where the frank views of some adoptees are not! We sometimes find a wistful comment from an adoptee, or a non-adoptee, wondering why we can’t all ‘work together’, get on and support each other. Wouldn’t it be lovely, but it’s probably more likely that pigs might fly! Perhaps some of the real truth might help to clarify what is really going on. Maybe we were gone forever, ‘presumed dead’, not envisaged as an adult, an unwelcome returner, a disturbance to life, a nuisance, a difficult inconvenience, an embarrassing turn-up, someone it was promised would not have to be thought about again. Whatever we are is unique and individual, with as many answers are there are adoptees.
In my country, the domestic adoption rate has dropped so much, that in some places adoption is practically non-existent. There are a number of reasons for this – improved contraception, acceptance of parenthood without marriage, attitudes to parenthood and adoption and possibly long-held beliefs that parenting is for life, not a throw-away inconvenience or a belief in our abilities to parent. How often we see young American women who say they don’t feel ready to parent, don’t have the skills, the finances, the commitment. What happened to their confidence, their determination, their purpose and their ability to plan their lives with common sense, self-care, the ability to self-validate and as my parents’ generation would have said ‘ backbone’ or ‘cajones’! How have those vital attributes, skills and abilities been eroded and not passed on to some of the current generation of young adults? In the area of adoption, so much damage has been done to young women by the advertising and ethos of the American adoption industry, which seizes them when they are at their most vulnerable and impressionable. They are taught that they don’t have the skills, the finance, the experience or the support to make it as a single mother or a mother and that adoption is beautiful, noble and something to aspire to as if it is a career, an identity or a worthy ambition. They are rewarded with soothing propaganda about their self-less actions, the good deeds, the beautiful gift of a child that only they can bestow. They are made to feel special, uniquely privileged and showered with promises that often won’t be kept. It seems there is no legal backup for these women – open adoptions can be closed, contact ceased and they are powerless because they gave up their parental rights. They are powerless because they gave up their power to others, an adoption agency or a persuasive individual or individuals and it often takes years before they see the light, perhaps some never do.
At the base of so much difficulty is surely the issue of parental rights or lack of them. Those who had them taken away or gave them up, and there are no other options, live with that event or set of events for life. Many never recover. My own mother suffered secondary infertility as did many mothers at the time. She never recovered her self-esteem, her self-respect or got over her guilt or the shame imposed on her by those around her – staff, professionals, family, society etc. She did experience a sense of relief when she found me after fifty years, knowing that I had survived, had a good life and had been raised without obvious abuse. She understood the abuse of adoption, the loss, trauma and difficulties, but it was mostly far too painful to talk about and I felt she had suffered enough and should be spared the details. She would have been stunned to find that she had been apologised to by her State Government and by the Federal Government. She was never kicked in the face by me and most adoptees I know are respectful and understanding of their mothers. Perhaps that’s because their mothers try to be respectful and understanding of them. Some adoptees however, clearly do not respect their biological parents, probably because they have done nothing to be respected for. Giving birth is not an automatic attractor of respect, love, admiration, gratitude or anything else. Many things have to be earned or take time to establish. Reunion is not the big fix-it, the cure for loss and trauma. It is rarely carefully prepared for or entered into with caution, because there are so many emotions, hopes and dreams involved.
Other issues make it difficult or impossible for there to be peace and harmony. It is often assumed by some that we adoptees had and have, a privileged life while the mother sacrificed herself to give her child a good life for which we appear not to be grateful. Many do not grasp the reality of reunion, the many difficulties involved, the painful information and the time it may take to come to terms with that information. We sometimes have difficulties with trust and rightly so, because we are so often lied to, given half-truths or misled. We are told we are ‘loved and wanted’ when the facts indicate otherwise and some of us experience the double whammy of a rejection in adulthood – heartbreaking and giving us the feeling that yet again others come first, are more important and loved. If we voice our views and feelings we are told we are angry, needy, whining, grizzling, ungrateful and should get over it and get on with life! Many want to tell us how to live our lives, how to be adoptees, what to say and how to behave. We are treated like children whatever our age, life experience and we are patronised, buttered up for the information we can provide, asked for approval, expected to educate about adoption, told that if we don’t like it we should do something about it. When we do, no-one likes that either and we are criticised, bullied, insulted, threatened and sometimes suffer actual assaults on our lives, our computers, our reputations and the information circulating about us. Being an activist adoptee brings it’s special and unique challenges. None of us ever have the choice of not being an adoptee and we are never able to be free of it. The reminders are constantly with us. We can never avoid it and it pops up unexpectedly, constantly and repeatedly in our daily lives. It takes us by surprise, astonishes us, pains and wounds us wherever we go, whatever we do. Would I change it if I could? Who knows? I have often dreamed of the beautiful family, know and been involved with families that look perfect to me, but it is what it is. I have no choice, as do all adoptees, but to get on with the lives we have, the lives we make and create for ourselves. I know that whatever I have become is my responsibility, my choice and rests on my decisions. I’d rather that than other options.