Wednesday, February 1, 2012

You're So Normal!

On my first birthday with my parents
I have a lot of friendly acquaintances at our local YMCA.  I was having a conversation with a woman I have chatted with many times before.  She told me she had noticed me with my boys and asked me if they were adopted.  I told her that they were and told her a little of our story.

She leaned a little closer to me and quietly said, "You know, I don't tell a lot of people this, but Bella (name changed for privacy) was adopted."  

Bella is her only child, who was five at the time we had this conversation.  I had seen them together many times.  They are the same race, so no one would immediately assume that Bella is not her biological child.

I shared with her that I was adopted.

She looked at me with surprise and said, "You're so normal!  Wow, I can't believe you were adopted! Were your parents amazing?  Have you always been okay about being adopted?  Do you feel that adoption is a cross you have always had to bear?"

"Yes my parents were amazing.  Yes, I have always been okay about being adopted.  A cross to bear?  No!  What makes you ask that?"

"My therapist told me that being adopted is a cross that Bella would always have to bear."

"Have you been worrying about this for five years?"

"Yes" she answered with tears in her eyes.
~

When Kurt and I began the adoption process, we attended a mandatory adoption informational meeting at our agency.  There were several other couples in the meeting.  We all were in the early stages of the adopting.

The social worker leading our group, started with a question, "What is the one thing that each member of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptee) have in common?"

The answer was that they have all suffered from loss.  The adoptive parents from infertility and the loss of the biological child they dreamed of having.  The birth parents suffer the loss of the child.  The adoptee suffers from the loss of the birth mother.  

I took a deep breath, and leaned forward to speak. Kurt put his hand on my leg.  This was not a gesture of affection, but a warning.  Just let it go and lets get this class over with.  I nodded my consent and was able to remain quiet for about 5 long seconds.

"I don't agree with that.  I agree that infertility is a loss, and  that it often leads to adoption.  Lots of people decided to adopt for reasons other than infertility, including us.  Also, I was adopted as an infant.  I don't feel as though I have suffered a loss.  I know that my birth mother suffered from losing her baby, but I didn't share that loss.  She was without her daughter, but I was never without a mother.  It's not the same."

Another member of the class, who was familiar with the widely read book, The Primal Wound - Understanding the Adopted Child written by Nancy Newton Verrier, added to the discussion.  She said that she had read that all adoptees suffer from the devastating experience of losing their mother and even though they don't remember it, it is still devastating.

The social worker agreed enthusiastically.  It was important to her that everyone in the room understood that a child of adoption suffers from loss.  

No wonder my friend from the YMCA was worried.
~
I agree that there is loss in adoption.  I know that Mikias and Jemberu have suffered from their losses.  I know that my birth parents both suffered from placing their baby for adoption.  I know that my parents suffered from their struggle with infertility.  I know of other adoptees who upon reading The Primal Wound, felt understood and validated.  I accept that.  I appreciate that.  I believe that if they feel that they suffered a primal wound, that they did.  No one can claim that, except for the person who has gone through it.  I think to some degree, my older brother suffered from being adopted in a way that I didn't. Every experience is different, even in the same family.

I want to tell you my experience as an adoptee.  It is only mine.  I expect and accept that your experience is different and uniquely yours.  

I have read The Primal Wound, with an open mind. I do not suffer from a primal wound and I resent anyone telling me that because I was adopted, I am wounded. I resent any book that attempts to explain all adoptees.  I resent reading that if I feel I don't have a primal wound, that I am in denial.

I did suffer from secrecy.  I suffered from lack of information.  I suffered from intense curiosity.  My adoption took place in the era of closed adoptions.  My parents openly shared the information they were given, but it filled only one type-written page, much of which I would later discover was fabricated.  I feel all adoptees should have the same rights as our non-adopted peers.  The right to know who were were born to, at what hospital, under what circumstances.  We deserve to know our own personal and medical histories.

I felt fully a part of my family.  I didn't have a 'missing piece'.  I didn't feel like an outsider or that I didn't belong.  

I never thought that it was my fault that I was adopted, that I wasn't good enough or pretty enough or that I was personally rejected by my birth mother.  I always knew that the choices made had nothing to do with me.  

When I met my birth parents, it didn't make me feel whole.  I already was whole.  I was and am grateful to be able to fill in the blanks of my story.  

I could go on and on.  What I hope that I am able to express is this:

There are challenges that come with adoption but they don't necessarily scar us. Every adoption experience is different and valid.  Adoptive parents should read, be aware, talk to others, but most importantly trust themselves and their relationship with their child.  Don't assume that anyone knows more than you about your own child. 

Most of all, no one should be surprised that a lovely adult was once an adopted child.



33 comments:

  1. My first reaction to hearing this woman's comment about her therapist was..time for a new therapist. As an adoptive mother myself, I would have been insulted if a professional referred to adoption as " a cross to bear". I wholeheartedly agree with you that parents need to trust themselves and their relationships with their children. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

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    1. I agree with you about the therapist! What a damaging thing to tell an adoptive parent. Thanks Jeanne, I always appreciate your feedback. xo

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    2. Hi Alison, finally made it on here, and wow! what an eye- opener! I'm floored by the heartless things people, even supposed experts in the field, say! I have no direct experience with adoption ( only the sense of loss? ?? from having desperately wanted to adopt a son from abroad but never finding an opportunity.... I know, good luck striking up a blog on that one!!!) Anyway having met your gorgeous sons, and witnessed first hand how fortunate they are to have you in their lives, I felt inspired to learn more of your story.

      Personally, I don't know where people get these ideas from that an adopted child will grow up with issues any more or less than those who grew up with biological parents. Obviously there are no parental qualifications required before giving birth to a child, and so many children are raised by biological parents who, frankly, had any kind of parenting skills assessment test been administered, would have flunked. what matters most is how loved and supported a child feels growing up, not the source of that love.

      and my own feelings about adoption have always been that since Bill Clinton, former leader of the free world, and a pop icon like Debbie Harry were adopted, along with countless other remarkable people, how can anyone feel the adoption process itself puts a child at a disadvantage?

      Do these people not understand how messed up many children raised by biological parents wind up being?

      in fact, I have worked closely with almost a dozen adopted children ( that I know of) and every single one of them is among the most delightful children I know ( and this opinion is very much shared by other adults who work with them). They are shining stars, who are pure joy to work with, and who charm teachers and classmates alike!

      And I don't know about you, but some of the comments peole here have had to endure are enough to make me " bomb it"!!
      ( a true linguistic Jem/ gem!!)

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  2. OMG. I love you all over again. Thank you. Thank you for recognizing that EVERY. SINGLE. Experience is different for everyone. Pardon me, while I build a pillar to put you on.

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    1. If I ever need a PR person, you've got the job! Thank you, as always, for your encouraging comment. I appreciate you.

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  3. Thanks for this Alison. I admit, there are days where I think, "Well, she'll probably be screwed up anyway." Sad, but I think it's something we hear over and over again. And I hope I don't project that on my daughter.

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    1. Annie, I love your honesty. I agree that the negative stuff we hear about adoption and adoptees is damaging, and can weigh on us as adoptive parents. Let's stick together, build each other up, and expect the best for our children.

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  4. I can't even tell you how wonderful it was to read this post. I know our son (age 12) is very new to our family but I have been wondering if he is living in "the adoption fog" that I keep reading about. I honestly don't think he is. He has experienced unbelievable loss in his short life but he seems to be one of those people who takes the good with the bad and moves on. Your post reminded to remember to trust myself and the relationship I have with our son. Thank you!

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    1. Amanda, thank you so much for this comment. I had similar feelings when we brought each of our boys home. They found their places with us so quickly that I almost didn't trust it. They remain exactly who they appeared to be, strong, resilient boys who knew love and how to adapt to a new family. Sounds like your son is the same way. Lucky us.

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    2. Lucky us, indeed. I would describe our experience with those same words, "he found his place with us so quickly that I almost didn't trust it." I feel like I was living waiting for the other shoe to drop. I would agree our son is the same way, "a strong, resilient boy who knew love and how to adapt to a new family." I've been wanting to write about this issue. I would love to link to this post if you don't mind. Thanks again for sharing!

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    3. Of course! Please share :) We need to stick together and help people understand that adopted does not equal broken.

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  5. this post really touched me, as I have one of each, one who feels the loss keenly and one who is entirely unaware, until it is pointed out that he does not share my coloring, hair, etc, then he is surprised all over again:-) I have never felt it should be a cross to bear though, it is a gift of a different kind, but you are right, each story is different and to try to shoehorn anyone into the "adoption mold" is utterly ridiculous, and harmful why they not conform.
    thank you for your refreshing view point.
    I enjoye dit so much I am posting it on my blog here, www.afamilieslove.com, but will remove it if you prefer, thank you again, Jamie

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    1. Jamie, thank you for your comment. My brother and I were both adopted and grew up being affected by it in entirely different ways. It is indeed ridiculous that some 'experts' lump adoptees and their experiences together as though we are all interchangeable.
      Thank you for re-posting. I am honored.

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  6. Thank you for posting this. I personally know adopted adults as well and they too didn't feel that way. I was always getting upset when people would act like my child is suffering.

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    1. Annieglan, I agree with you. Being adopted does not always equal being wounded. Thanks for your comment and for reading!

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  7. Wait...did you just call yourself a lovely adult? I think you did. :) And lovely you sure are.

    You've talked about this often. I'm glad you shared it here. No two children raised by biological parents experience their lives in the same way- why would adopted children be any different? We always hear that people are like snowflakes- no two are alike. Why would any two people experience things in the same way?

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    1. Why yes Michelle, I did! My parents didn't raise me to have poor self-esteem!

      I so agree about the snowflakes! It is odd how certain groups of people get lumped together as though they all have the same experiences.

      Alison

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  8. I love this post. Thank you for sharing. I will think of this post for a long time!

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    1. Thank you Teri! I really appreciate your comment.

      Alison

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  9. Alison,
    I gave you a "Liebster Award." Please hop over to my blog to learn about it:
    http://michellecusolito.blogspot.com/2012/02/liebster-award.html

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    1. I LOVE this! I will have to make my own list to give the award to!

      Thank you!

      Alison

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  10. As a former "Adoption Professional" I used to start all of my workshops with that same question/answer about loss. But WOW...what a valid, honest, thoughtful point you've made! After reading your post I feel silly for even thinking that there has to be common threads in the adoption experience. Thank you for sharing your family, and your beautiful insight, with us!

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    1. Kim,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I wish I had received the same reaction in our adoption class!

      Alison

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  11. I am so glad I found your blog. I just posted about almost the same thing. Our stories are similar. I was adopted and have never felt lost of suffered from low self esteem. The books say I should. Oh well, I didn't get the "memo". I also have now adopted from foster care and we are still foster parents. Our children are different races. I think there need to be some NEW books! I DO agree that many DO feel a loss, but I don't and I think the way I was raised has helped with that. Great post.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I have several friends who are also adopted and they feel much like we do. I don't know what the secret is as to why some people struggle so much with being adopted and some don't. Like you, I had wonderful parents, but my brother struggled with adoption issues in a way that I didn't. I wish I had the answer to why that is. It sure is important to know (especially to adoptive parents) that every experience is unique. You are right about the need for books with different perspectives!

      Alison

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  12. Allison, you are amazing! Thanks for being sweet, smart, wonderful you!

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    1. Amy this is such a wonderful post, thanks so much for sharing! My daughter is constantly asking me about her birth parents, I just don't know what to tell her! It would only break her heart knowing that both her parents were drug addicts and had to give her up for adoption because they couldn't take care of her. Any advice? I am just so scared to hurt her. I know I need to tell my daughter the truth and I am finding sites like http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/social-work-ceus-cpa give good advice to me handle this situation. I definitely recommend taking a look at the site and please let me know what you think!

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  14. i'm always glad to read about adoptees who don't consider themselves broken or damaged, and who don't long for their birth families. i would hope that my son never misses me like i miss him.

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    1. "I would hope that my son never misses me like I miss him." That beautiful sentence made me tear up. That is true, deep, love.

      Alison

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  15. As a social worker and therapist with a focus in adoption, your post reminds me how powerful words can be, and how harmful a careless or misguided professional can be. Thanks for this post.

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    1. You are right, words are so powerful, especially when they come from a professional during a vulnerable time, such as as during the adoption process. Thanks for taking a moment to comment.

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  16. Hi Alison,

    I stumbled on to your blog and just can't stop reading. I love your take on adoption and your boys are so handsome. My oldest 15 was adopted as an infant. He is my life as a single parent by choice. It breaks my heart when people assume he is broken because he was adopted. A lot of people don't even know he is adopted or any of the story so sometimes I hear things about adoption and people don't even know it's effecting me. I read the primal wound book and I was floored, I don't agree with it at all because my son is so happy and carrying and loving.
    I am in the process of adopting my second son. He is African American my first son and I are white/hispanic. I have had my second son since he was just 2 days old. His birth mother didn't hold him until he was two weeks old and we did visits for 11 months with her. She was trying to regain custody of him but failed. To make a long story short my second son seemed to prefer me over her. She might be the birth mother but I was the one caring for him 24/7. It made me mad when I read primal wound and it makes it sound like no one can function with out their birth mother.
    Each adoption is different, I am so glad to read that you agree as an adoptee that you can grow up and be ok. Anyway thanks for sharing your blog. I love my sons so much.

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