Sunday, August 27, 2006

Adoption Overload

Have finally hit that stage. Sick of thinking about being adopted and how it's impacted my life. Not that I'll stop thinking about it. Or that I shouldn't have started in the first place. No. That was absolutely necessary. The whole adoption issue was like that arcade game, "Whack A Mole." I kept pounding away, trying to make the little mole stay in the ground, but it kept popping up in the oddest of places.

Self-reflection, exploration, getting ready for therapy sessions, the sessions themselves, the recovery period after therapy is, well...exhausting. Is there such a thing as "self-help fatigue?" If so, Ive reached it. Have even reached the point where calling my birth mother - once a happy event - has become somewhat of a chore. Not that I don't want to talk to her. It's just all the mental preparation, the tiptoeing around, the dissection afterward. It's hard work. And exhausting.

Some days, I just want to be me. Plain old me. Wife. Mother of two teenagers. Friend. Not the relinquished baby. Not my adoptive parent's solution to their problems. Not the person with annoying people pleasing tendencies who's trying to set boundaries and put myself first for a change.

And just when I think I'm overplaying the importance that adoption has had on my life, that all this exploration may be a tad unhealthy, there it is. A reminder why I must continue. I get a disturbing email from a relative asking for help with something that I find uncomfortable and it sends me into a tizzy. I do not delete the email. I stew over. Stress over it. Instead of saying, no thank you I immediately email back, ask a few questions to clarify the situation and promise to look into the matter. Boundaries do NOT come easy. My people pleasing knows no bounds. But no. I will not be dragged into the matter. I will decline. Politely. But reaching that decision has worried me. It was an automatic. That is my goal. To receive a communication asking for help or advice or money and not feel the need to immediately respond. Baby steps. They are exhausting.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Chosen Baby Nonsense

The first time I ever heard the "Chosen Baby" story, I hated it. You were chosen. You are special. We wanted you and now you are ours. All that proprietary language wrapped up in Hallmark sentiments. Not surpisingly, that language was later discarded by adoption experts, along with other social practices as "matching." Of course, back then, I couldn't exactly say what I found so objectionable about being "chosen." Probably because adoption was like the weather. Always there but not much I could do about it. There were no words to describe all those weird feelings. And I'm certainly not alone. Even relatively well adjusted adult adoptees who say they attached to their adoptive parents seem to get the gag reflux at the whole Chosen Baby tale. Except one. A friend of mine suggested I talk to a friend of hers. Let's call her Sally. Sally is also an adult adoptee. Adored her adoptive parents. Didn't seem to much mind being adopted.

So what's the difference? I got to wondering.

Did she have better adoptive parents? Were they more empathetic? What accounted for the difference. I still have no idea. Even after talking with her. She'd never really explored her feelings about adoption nor had she read any literature on adoption and its impact on the triad. Like the weather, it was there and, unlike me, seemed to accept it. Still, she told a story that puzzles me. Or maybe it's simply intriguing. That two people could view the same scenario in such different ways.

Sally went to catholic school back in the seventies. One of her teachers, a nun, asked if anyone in class was adopted. Sally cringed. She didn't want to admit she was adopted but she didn't want to lie either. So she raised her hand, not knowing what to expect. Sally wasn't alone. Several other kids did, too. The nun announced these children we so lucky. They were chosen. Special. And so on. Sally's reaction? Huge relief. Whew! She was lucky. Chosen. Special. Thank goodness! Sally says her mother used to tell her the same thing and it always made her feel great. I went to catholic school in the seventies, too. If I'd had the same experience, I would have hated that nun forever. I'd be talking about it with my therapist.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hush: Controlling What We Say

In books that discuss the psychology of adoptees, there's quite a bit on control. The lack of control that we adoptees had over the first part of our lives. The fact that we were relinquished. Where we ended up and with whom. So it seems we grew up a prickly bunch who don't like being controlled. Who are apt to misinterpret casual suggestions as attempts to control. Then again, a good friend of mine is not adopted and we both score high on the control prickly meter.

So, it's one of the things I think about. This issue of control and how I react when I detect it. Which causes me to fume in private. But I've been coming across it more than usual lately. In the context of looking into the history of adoption practices and, more specifically, my transference from a poor Hispanic woman to low income, working class Hispanic strangers a mere 1.5 miles across town.

My first encounter was with a man who runs an adoption education non--profit. I could tell two minutes into the conversation that he was an adoptive father because when I started asking questions about how social workers back in the 60's chose prospective parents, he bristled. Or at least his voice did. He had detected I was less than pleased with the couple selected for me and he had to correct me. No, no, no, he insisted. The parents we ALL end up with is random anyway. Then he went on to explain why this was so, telling me the story of his own birth and that he was the living proof of that randomness. "But a social worker -- a person -- decided where I was going," I said. "It's different." No, no, no. It's not different at all, he said. More examples. Why were we talking about this, I wondered. Why was it so important for him to prove me wrong and set me straight. After all, it was just my opinion. My reality as interpreted by me. But he could not stand it. My dissent. And while he is both sympathetic and supportive of adoptee rights, apparently they do not extend to adoptees who question one of the basic principles of closed adoption: that babies and children are given to biological strangers and that while there is a sort of randomness that "determines" where we end up, it's a social system or game where almost everybody gets to play except the adoptee. To express dissatisfaction with one's adoptive parents is one thing. To question the system - even the old ridiculous one with its practices of matching - is another. The adoptee spoke. The adopter did not like it. Since then, I've had a couple more similar conversations. One with another adoptive parent and one with a social worker in Post Adoption Services. Even an adoptee - in her 70s - who thinks adoptee rights groups are too militant and anti-adoption. The rush to correct. The refusal to let me finish another sentence. No, no, no. Wrong. This is the right way. My way.

And here's another thing. Adoption outcome surveys. What do they measure? Adoptive parental satisfaction. How well we adoptees did in school. Whether we ended up crazy. How many of us were "returned to sender" or whether the adoptive parents encountered legal problems. What about our satisfaction. How do we think we fared in what's been called a "social experiment?" There was a good one done with the first generation of Korean adoptees. But how about the rest of us? What do we really think about adoption. How satisfied are we? How do we think we have fared? Does anybody really want to know? If some of us said what we really think - whatever that may be - if it's anything but, "Gee! I LOVE being adopted. It's absolutely terrific and I'm so appreciative for my good fortune," then I believe the answer is...hush hush. Oh! Like that 80's Til Tuesday song, Voices Carry. "Hush hush. Keep it down now. Voices carry. I try hard not to get upset because I know all the trouble I'll get."