Sunday, March 11, 2007

Adoptee Traits: Putting It All Together

If you read enough adoptee blogs long enough, themes begin to emerge.

Younger adoptees, older ones from the ill-fated social experiment that is the Closed Era and then, of course, the transracial adoptee facing the additional challenge of Strangers in a Strange Land and most recently, the Donor Generation. Different, but somehow linked together.

Themes of alienation. Disconnectedness. Insecurity.

The feeling of abandonment doing battle with knowing you were wanted and needed.

The sadness.

The obligation.

The STRANGENESS.

The superiority. The degradation.

Given away. Surrendered under pressure. Relinquished of free will.

Picked as the last and only option. Second choice.

The people pleasing. The tendency to become a "fixer." Never quite fitting in.

Back and forth. Forth and back.

Adoptees discovering - online - that we are NOT alone and finding that we have so much in common, no matter that we grew up thousands of miles apart, separated by decades, divided by class and race.

In rereading Betty Jean Lifton's Lost & Found this weekend, ten months after discovering the online community of adoptees, I stumbled across this quote:

"Call them what you will-a pseudo-species, survivors, exceptions-adopted adults insist they feel outside the mainstream of human existence. Instead of asking, "Who am I?" they ask, "Who are we?" Speaking an emotional shorthand, they compare common traits in their adoptive parents as if they had emerged from a communal womb. They sound like brothers and sisters reminscing about the family. The gravitational pull of their shared experience holds them together in their own private galaxy. Just as society has kept secrets from them, they kept secrets from society. It is this private world of tribal secrets that binds them together in a new kind of kinship. Together they have a chance of discovering who they are."

Given all of this, how do I really feel about adoption?

Elizabeth is brave enough to say she hates it. I hate it, too. Or at least my experience of it. Not that I had a choice.

It's not something I'd wish on someone else.

I haven't devoted nearly enough thought - yet - to where I stand on adoption as an institution.

In some cases, it simply can't be avoided. But should it be promoted as a wonderful solution?

I don't think so.


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30 Comments:

Anonymous mia said...

I have never been anti-adoption because I always viewed it in it's perfect form; providing homes for children in need. Honestly though Nina my opinion is changing drastically. It is an Adoption Industry which is not at all successful at fulfilling it's original intent.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

You raised an important distinction, Mia...what it was meant for, in its simplicity, providing homes for children in need. But it's become an INDUSTRY with marketing and promotion and now, supply and demand and where all that "product" will come from and ensuring that there are enough babies to go around, etc. etc. It's become something else. In my case, I WAS a child in need of a home because my mother very voluntarily gave me up and was unwilling to raise me. Maybe youur opinion is changing so drastically because the way adoption is being practiced is changing so fast, too???

11:36 AM  
Blogger suz said...

I hate it in its current form and many parts of it.

I believe there will always be a need for someone to care for the child of another.

Parents die, are abusive, etc. In those cases, someone needs to care for the child. Is it guardianship? Kinship adoption? Regardless. I am whole heartedly against closed adoption, finding babies for infertiles versus finding homes for children, using poor women as breeders for wealthier women, stigmatizing unwed mothers, lack of real, viable social programs, the lack of value placed on the mother child bond and much more.

What happened to me and what happened to my daughter was/is wrong. It shouldnt happen to anyone.

It should never be an option for a mother to give away her child. It should be viewed as wrong if not more wrong than abortion. The aborted fetus doesnt live with the life long complications of abortion. The adoptee does.

Its damaging to not only the mother and child but entire family constellations for generations to come.


Of course, all just my personal opinion. Hopefully, no one will take my words as yours. Feel free to delete if I ranted too much.

Bottom line is that I agree with you and then some.

1:57 PM  
Blogger suz said...

Whoops, felt the need to clarify this. It could be confusing

It should never be an option for a mother to give away her child. It should be viewed as wrong if not more wrong than abortion. The aborted fetus doesnt live with the life long complications of abortion. The adoptee does.

The adoptee lives with the lifelong pains of adoption..(not that they live with the pain of abortion..I wrote that all wrong...was too excited)

1:59 PM  
Anonymous bijou said...

Nina, I find much truth in Lifton's statement- that we are discovering who we are, that we feel we are a different species. I would compare it to living in a parallel universe. Do I think adoption should be promoted as it is, NO. Ideally, it would be providing homes for children truly in need, which currently is not the case. Currently driven by consumerism and marketing (and some psychoterror), even today's open adoptions are messed up. I hate adoption as an institution. However, I would not go so far as to say that I wish I was aborted- No matter how difficult things were living with an abusive parent, feeling abandoned, caring for myself and my amom at the age of 8, being denied my right to the truth, being rejected by my mother I'm still somehow glad to be alive-- granted Im guilty of living in a state of dissociation sometimes, and sometimes I must make a conscious effort to be happy. It's conflicting, almost numbing. Would I wish it on anyone, no.

Wow, that was a long-winded comment.

bijou

2:53 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

I hate adoption in all of its forms.

Given that a pregnant woman can't and/or won't parent, I think abortion should be promoted, i.e. "free" abortions.

I do not hate adoptive parents, not at all. Many of them were duped too.

I'm anti-adoption, will scream it loud and clear, but I'm not anti-adoptive parents. Just saying that because I care about many adoptive parents and I never want to offend them.

Adoption as it exists today wipes out identities and falsifies records. This is utter crap, and should be illegal.

I hate adoption, I really really do. I grew up hating it, so this is nothing new.

4:13 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

I think there will always be a need for adoption when it comes to children whose parents are deceased or in those families where severe abuse/neglect exist and all efforts have failed at reunification. Having said that though, I have to agree with everyone here when they say adoption should never be a secret. Kids,in my opinion, have a right to their identity and their heritage. From what all of you have written that comes through "loud and clear".

I am also thinking if there is to be adoption it should be a govermental responsibility. The government's role is to protect is citizens and who is more vulnerable than infants? That responsibility should not be abdicated to the free marketplace where people can be bought and sold as a commodity. Profit is the bottom line for private adoption agencies. Their existance counts on it.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post Nina.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

SUZ, Far from a rant, your comment was both interesting and thought provoking. Thank you for adding a whole other dimension to this question: that it shouldn't just be an option that a mother can give away her baby. Wow. That's a paradigm shift for sure.

Bijou, You are never long winded. I LOVE comments that give me so much to think about. It's such an important question for us adoptees to ultimately ask ourselves: what do we think about adoption as an industry practicing today and, eventually, what are we willing to DO about it? Like you, I am glad not to have been aborted because, despite the pain, I experience so much joy. The CLOSED era was especially evil in that it did so much damage to us and many of us are the walking zombie proof. OMIGOD!!! I think I just figured out why I LOVE zombie movies...even Resident Evil! Never made the connection.

ELIZABETH, Got it! You made an important distinction...hate the industry but don't mean to include adoptive parents. I failed to point out that for myself and I certainly don't mean to include them. Even though there are other adoption-industry-loathing adoptees out there, you were the first I stumbled across and, at first, I was sorta scandalized, sorta thrilled at the mere idea of voicing what seemed like blasphemy, then finally just thought...how refreshingly HONEST. It was one of the first signs that I was coming out of my "brainwashing."

Brilliant, LEROY...Mmm. Government responsibility and taking adoption out of the free marketplace! Another paradigm shift!!!

6:33 PM  
Blogger Possum said...

Yet another great post from our lovely Nina!!
Yep - I'm another species - for sure.
I love all the comments also in this thread - many many things to think about.
I've also been writing about this over at my place. I stated that I do not believe adoption is a 'natural' act - and have had one comment back from an adoptive mum to the contrary on this point.
I'm not cranky at her for NOT agreeing with that point - in fact she is so much more aware of what her little adoptee needs in life - compared to some scary adoptive mothers out there.
I just think that - in most cases - if mothers are given adequate emotional and monetary support - adoption DOES NOT NEED TO OCCUR - and the pain and heartache would not have to occur.
Yeah - in some cases - there is a need - but maybe a 'guardianship' situation - so that the child keeps claim to their name and their heritage. And that the child is allowed to talk and feel something for the family which they did once belong.
WOW - I'm rambling.
(Possum gets off her soapbox now!!!)
You rock Nina!!!
Biggest hugs, Poss. xxx

11:28 PM  
Anonymous dory said...

"But should it be promoted as a wonderful solution?"

Hmmmm, well their solution became my problem.

I still haven't decided whether I'm anti or ambivalent. I think that for children who are orphaned and do not have any relatives to care for them then it's better than being tossed around from foster home to foster home. Same for those severly abused. But as far as infant adoption - most of the time I think it's uncessary and yes, an industry. The profiting needs to stop. Oh, and then there's international - just rife with corruption.

"Adoptees discovering - online - that we are NOT alone and finding that we have so much in common"

It's these adoptee that have changed my life - for the better. It's amazing what connecting with someone who feels the same way can do to your psyche.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Ungrateful Little Bastard said...

I don't like being adopted. Because of that, I can't coherently state my position on adoption as an institution. But adoption as an industry - I could write volumes on that.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

"The superiority. The degradation."

Less than, yet better than everyone else... the Other, the outsider.


The people pleasing. The tendency to become a "fixer." Never quite fitting in.

I found my "family" with fellow bastards.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Andie D. said...

Yeah, I don't like being adopted either. Not one little bit. The thought that I "never should have been" plagued me for years. Decades, actually.

Plus the usual adoptee stuff that you outlined.

I think that my biggest problem with adoption is the CLOSED adoption. I think? Fuck that. I know. Then again my "problem" with adoption is a multi-faceted tumor. The closed aspect just happens to be a very big facet.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Paula O. said...

I only knew of one other adoptee growing up - - I never even THOUGHT to research or read about fellow adoptees to try to gain a better sense of why I felt, acted, thought and behaved the way I did. Just chalked it up to severe deficiencies and inadequacies on my part.

Nina, I always find your words so comforting - so validating. It feels good to know I'm not alone. :)

9:14 PM  
Blogger momseekingpeace said...

That was a very thought provoking post. I always wonder how many of those things my son feels.

Its amazing to me that I spent all those years living in a painful numb place thinking I was the only one, it was such a relief to find other mothers.

MSP

11:25 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Dory, Ungrateful Little Bastard, Ron, Andie, Paula O.:

It takes soooo long - when you feel so isolated and no one's ever talked to you except in a very limited way about adoption - to begin to break through the haze and the fog of it all. It's really like sleeping walking. And it's no wonder either. I do believe there is a pervasive "this baby is a blank slate" attitude toward us, often among even the more educated adoptive families although, hopefully, not so much among newer ones. I was just telling my husband last night that I'd never had a fellow adoptee as a friend to discuss these complicated, impossible to explain feelings with and that for me, the internet was a true marvel!

Thank you, MomSeekingPeace!

8:25 AM  
Blogger BB Church said...

Nina,

I think there are few things more powerful than adoptees sharing their experiences. Our stories are the stuff that myths are made of.

Ron

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your post and I thank you for it. I'm a mom who signed papers 17 years ago for a couple to adopt my baby girl. I felt pressured and scared. Very alone. I love my child very much and wish every day she was back with me.

She doesn't even really know me though. I can't imagine how difficult it is for her to know how much I love her because I am almost a complete stranger to her.

Thanks for writing. Please Keep it up.

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, i'm very sorry that yours was a dysfunctional adoptive family. i can tell you coming from a highly dysfunctional biological family (and never being adopted) lends a different perspective.

an adoptive child is typically rejected once (at birth)... perhaps twice in a reunion situation.

my mom rejected me hundreds of times. i live with it but it's been very difficult over a lifetime. i have deep insecurities too, and often,

i'm an adoptive mom and our child is loved beyond compare. we have an open adoption with the birth mom and hopefully over time our daughter will come to experience the love of both her families.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Manuela said...

Umm... not sure what the point of anon #2 was up there... that she thinks she knows what it's like to feel like an adoptee? That her child is different?

Maybe my bitchy sense is on overdrive... but I'm sensing a strange self-justification that seems out of place here.

Feel free to delete if you think I"ve overstepped my bounds here.

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