I usually try to avoid the debate on pro vs anti adoption. My focus isn’t whether it is right or wrong; I focus on the health of adoptees. I try to present all the different feelings we have and come up with ways to deal with them. However, as we all know, this is National Adoption Awareness month and I feel it appropriate to write about adoptees’ perspective on adoption awareness. I also think it’s time I write about how I truly feel, regardless of my families (adoptive and bio) feelings about the situation. I finally realized that muting my truest feelings aren’t really protecting them, it’s hurting me and those I’m trying to help so…. here goes.
One year ago, I sat on a couch in a TV studio set alongside my bio aunt and was interviewed about my book which describes my life being adopted, how I found my birth family and then about my decision to donate my kidney to my bio aunt. My life is a feel-good story. I describe the emotions and feelings I went through as an adoptee and the pain of needing to know where I came from. However, because I basically had a happy childhood and finding my birth mother was easy since Alabama became an open records state, I told my own truth, which was that adoption worked for me. I smiled about and raved about how happy I am with how my life turned out. I wasn’t lieing about that; I am very happy that I was dealt the best cards possible and I wouldn’t be where I am today without having had that journey and for that I a truly forever grateful. And then… I met all of you,
Not long after I went on a month long book signing tour in Alabama where I was born and Arkansas where I was raised, I discovered Twitter and the treasure trove of adoptees and birth families that talk and blog about adoption from the other side. At first, I was overwhelmed and saddened by how many people were saying that adoption is evil. I couldn’t, wouldn’t believe that adoption was evil, after all, look at me… look at my brother…. we turned out fabulous! But I kept an open mind and I read more and more about the downsides and the destruction that adoption causes and it was harder and harder to ignore and I obviously couldn’t discount it. Then I started absorbing it and the slow realization came over me that adoption isn’t always the right thing to do. I wanted to write more about the wrongs of adoption but then I found myself wanting to protect my birth mother and bio family from the truth of the pain that adoption brings. My birth mother already suffered for 30 years of her life over her loss and 30 years of wondering so I started censoring myself in my blog posts because I don’t want her to suffer more thinking she did the wrong thing. She did the only thing she knew to do and I have no regrets but there are things I hold back.
Don’t get me wrong, my truth has not changed. I’m still happy that my life turned out the way it did. I have so many wonderful people in my life and I wouldn’t have them had my birth mother not relinquished me. I’m not convinced that my birth mother would have raised me with the same unconditional love that I received from my adoptive family. A huge part of me believes that my birth mother was too immature to get past the resentment she was sure to feel by my presence. Mobile, Alabama in the early 70’s was still very much an old-fashioned and judgmental society that would have made her feel ashamed to be a young, single mother with no resources. She was also living in the same city as my birth father who didn’t know about me and in fact, she was still in love with him and was devastated by his breaking up with her. I would have been a constant reminder of that pain. I believe that our lives together would have been hard and maybe not as loving as it should have been. This is not to say that my birth mother is a bad person – she is a wonderful lady who has been good to me since we met and we have a great relationship but at that time, she was just too young and immature to handle those emotions. So yes, I believe my adoption was the best thing for me and her. But…… there’s always, ALWAYS, that small sliver of doubt in my mind that wonders if that would’ve been true and even so, would things have been just as good? I still to this day think about what things would’ve been like if I had stayed with her. So there’s that….
Then there’s the truths of so many adoptees and birth moms/dads in the world. I have learned about the TRAUMA (not the pain, the trauma) that adoption causes and that has been the biggest discovery for me. I had NO idea the separation was so traumatic for both mother and child. How could I have been so naive? The propoganda, I guess, “protected” me from those truths. Think about movies you’ve seen where a baby was torn from a mother’s arms and the pain that movie portrays, it’s the exact same thing for a birth mother who is relinquishing their baby. It is no different except that people would say that in this case, it’s her choice. Choice? If anyone thinks she really has a choice then they’re not paying attention. Adoption is portrayed as the easy way out. Can you believe that? The easy way out, not hardly. What is easy about a mother bonding with their baby in-utero and then having to pass that baby off to strangers knowing they will never see that baby again. People also discount or don’t think about the baby’s feelings as the baby has also bonded with the mother; that is scientifically proven. In my book I talk about how the nurses said I was very cranky and cried a lot. I say it’s because I went straight into the cold arms of the doctors and nurses instead of the warm arms of my mother. Babies have survival instinct and feelings, we’re not just machines that come out. Then there are the mothers who do get to hold their babies for a short time, which also develops the bond, and then the baby is passed over to someone else. The babies feel that loss, too. I urge everyone to go read about the Primal Wound Theory; there’s something to that!
So I am going to un-censor myself for this one time, for the sake of awareness, and talk about my truest feelings and the pain I have felt. After I found out I was adopted in the 4th grade, I was excited. I enjoyed that there was a mystery and more to learn about myself. When I got older, my a-mom and I had a really hard time relating to each other and we fought constantly. That is when I really started to become sad for the loss of my birth mother. I don’t think I was too un-like a lot of teenagers who “hate” their parents for not letting them do this or that but I felt like my a-mom did not understand me at all; and she didn’t. It wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t relate to me on those levels because we were just two completely different people. I remember sitting in my room crying my eyes out wishing I knew who my birth mom was and imagined that my life would be so much better if I were with her. (Sorry mom, but that is the truth, and it doesn’t make me love you less). My mom didn’t have my DNA; she couldn’t relate her own behaviors in her youth to mine like most of us do with our kids. I say all the time about my daughter – oh my gosh I was the same way! Being that I was the same way, I know how to deal with what she’s going through because we share DNA and deal with things similarly. My a-mom didn’t have that luxury so it was hard on both of us. She did the best she could but unlike most kids, I knew I had another mother out in the world somewhere and when I was upset I would cry for her, just like I’m sure I cried for her when I was a newborn. Once I got into the Army, I was too busy to think about all that stuff. I was on my own and doing well so there were no triggers. Once I had my daughter (whom I had considered relinquishing but thank GOD didn’t), and settled down then I began to try and find my birth mom. It wasn’t easy at first because Alabama was a closed records state. It was very frustrating as all of you adoptees know, but I was patient. I wrote the Congressmen with justifications for the law to open the records and it wasn’t long until they did! Knowing what I know now, I realize how much of a feat and accomplishment that was! How lucky was I to have only had to wait a short time for that to happen? Most adoptees will never have that luxury. I got my original birth certificate and it had some things marked off with marker. How is that open?? And then the names were different on the court paperwork they sent me. It was still not going to be that easy, but I handed it off to a PI who found her within a month. Again, I was pretty lucky that it didn’t take that long. Reunion has opened up new wounds I never knew existed. My birth mom has an amazing life with an amazing family and I struggle all the time with the fact that I missed out. I know, though, we would likely not have had that same fabulous life because things would’ve been very different for us. I also struggle with the fact that I’m not physically located with all of them and when I see pictures of the “whole” family together, I do get jealous and small stab of pain that it’s really not my family. We didn’t all grow up together and know each other like I know my a-family. My a-family really knows me but of course, that’s 40 years of knowing me. My bio family has only known me for 9 years; it’s a slow process and we’re working on it. As happy as I am to know all of them and as much as I love all of them, a small part of me is still sad that I didn’t have them and I feel like an appendage to their family. I know they all love me to pieces and everyone is so grateful that I’m back in the family but it isn’t easy. I don’t want them to pretend like it’s easy and I need to stop pretending like it’s easy. Ok – that felt good.
So there – I’ve done my part to bring awareness to the other side of adoption, the not so pretty side of adoption. I want you all to know that wasn’t easy for me to really put myself out there but I thank you all so very much for giving me the platform and the courage to really be honest with myself and my family. I know some of them will never understand but that’s ok, as long as they continue to love me. I still think there’s a time and place for adoption but I’m slowly coming to the realization that it should be absolutely the worst case truly no other option scenario and adoptive parents should look into foster care children first, not newborns. I think more should be done to keep families together and I think there’ nothing wrong with believing in adoption while knowing there are changes that have to be made. It has to be a culture shift that it’s not the easy way out or the first thing people should think of in difficult situations. The first step to that culture change is speaking out on the truths of adoptions, all sides of adoption. I am so grateful to have found my bio family and I love them so much but nothing worthwhile is ever easy and we shouldn’t put our blinders on, we should work through the difficulties. I have a happy life but it’s because of how I have chosen to play the cards I was dealt. I had the best possible hand but so many others weren’t and I encourage them to speak out about it and I encourage others to listen – even “happy” adoptees. You may be happy (such as myself) but it doesn’t mean you didn’t have pain and suffering that you dealt with because of your adoption.
Here I am, one year later, and I wish I could go back to that interview and not only tell my happy story, but talk about the other realities of adoption. I didn’t know then, but if I ever have the chance again I will be sure to talk about the other truths and I won’t sugar coat it. I apologize to those who feel I just fed the beast with my happy story. I promise to move forward with the knowledge you have given me. And now, back to my regularly scheduled programming of writing posts purely to help adoptees live positive lives. Thank you all for listening and thank you to my adoptive and bio families for your compassion and understanding. I love you ALL.