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Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The Chosen Child: Adopted and Special
I stumbled across this reunion story yesterday when I Goggled “Birthmother.” The adoptee, Margaret Harless, is now 54, just two years older than I. She was born to a “poor, unmarried housemaid” on the Air Force base in Germany where her parents, an American soldier and his wife, received their “gift” in a face-to-face meeting arranged through the base chaplain, unusual (I think) for an adoption of that era; it also struck me that it was a harbinger of the international adoption trend.
This following passage jumped out at me: “Throughout her childhood, Harless said her parents balanced their honesty about her adoption with a love that treated her no differently than if she had been theirs by birth. "They always told me, 'You're very special because we picked you out. We didn't have to take you,' “Harless recalls with a laugh. ”I never felt like I was missing anything."
Special. Picked you out. We didn’t have to take you. “Picked out,” like choosing a cake from a bakery display case? Like shopping for a car, selecting the color and preferred options? I pictured the cartoons of my early childhood, prospective parents smiling through a nursery window full of pink and blue bassinettes with a stork standing by, the parents pointing to their selection, the stork wrapping up the bundle of joy and delivering it down a chimney. How would I feel if I heard that from my parents? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have taken it well at all. And I also thought of the ancient proverb, “Beggars should not be choosers.”
But I read on and this really hit home: “But Harless also wanted to know the person who, according to her parents, had given her up because she couldn't afford to keep her and wanted a better life for her daughter. She didn't pursue this desire during the life of her parents. Though they were outwardly supportive of any attempts to locate her birth mother, Harless said she believed different feelings lay beneath the surface. [Italics mine].
How sadly familiar that previous statement is to so many of us FMF readers; we know those mixed signals all too well, the perpetual elephant in the room of countless adoptee/adoptive parent relationships.
Thankfully, Harless eventually followed her instincts and registered with adoption.com and forgot about it, until she heard from an American woman living in Germany who makes a career of reuniting American adoptees with their Germany birth families (what a great job!). Some missed communication ensued, but eventually there’s the happy ending we all dream of, in thanks to Facebook, which just confirmed my theory from my Facebook Fallout blog of April 3.
Lorraine and I briefly discussed the notion of being “chosen.” She noted that adoptees—especially aware adoptees—aren’t fond of the term. My daughter used that phrase early in our reunion; one day at work a colleague overheard her conversation and he poked his head over the cubicle wall and asked, “Are you a chosen one too?” My daughter’s adoptive father told me the story of how they came to be her parents. They didn’t “choose” my daughter; she fell into their laps. The agency called them the day I signed the relinquishment papers and asked if they were prepared to take on a daughter. No bassinettes full of bundles of joy, no storks.
JANE: Presenting adoption as a "gift" from doesn't sit well with me [me either-Linda]. It’s really just another international adoption story. Couple from US adopt poor child so child can have a better life. In the post-war period many German children went home with American military families. They were open adoptions only in that they may have met and knew each others names but no communication.
Ironically, Germany did well in the post-war period so it is likely that these German mothers could have raised their children, like the Korean mothers who gave up children in the 1960s -1980s.
There is an organization of German born adoptees, Geborener Deutsche, which helps German adoptees search for their original families. Peter Dodds wrote a memoir of his experience of being adopted from Germany by an American military family, >Outer Search/Inner Journey He learned German and found his mother. He is opposed to international adoption.
The positive part of all search/reunion stories is that they help counter two myths--that adoptees are welded to their adoptive families as if born to them and that birthmothers don't want to meet their children. Of course, the downside is that reunions are still news--meaning that the public doesn't expect them to happen.
Adoptee followers of FMF, we'd like to hear from you; tell us how you feel about being called "special" and "chosen."