Monday, September 21, 2009

The "perfectly happy" adoptee and his perfectly content birth/first mother


Ever get tired of reading newspaper accounts or hearing on the tube that someone who was adopted was "perfectly happy" with her adoptive relationship, but gee, she was curious? Well, we are. It happened the other day through the Adoption News Service and all three of us found ourselves automatically irritated.

Writers outside of the adoption world always feel that they have to assure the world that the adoption was picture "perfect, " the adoptive parents in line for sainthood, everything was honkey-dorey before they continue with the story of a reunion, just to make everyone know that this was no ungrateful little bastard looking for her/his roots. Or they say that the birth/first mother was perfectly content with not knowing and Whoops! along comes the child "she never forgot."

Well, dammit, most of us, if not all of us, are not perfectly happy with our decision to lose a child through adoption (except some who are typing madly away at some adoption.com sites from which we have been banned) and most adoptees are also not perfectly content with having been given away, because you cannot be available for adoption unless someone leaves you on the proverbial doorstep somewhere. Being adopted from a foreign country today also raises the possibility that you were stolen or kidnapped or bought and sold. But "perfectly happy"?

How can anyone adopted be "perfectly happy" with having been adopted in the first place, and particularly if one is unable to trace one's original roots? How can anyone truly be "perfectly happy" with the idea of having been born to a mother who could not keep you? One can come to acceptance, one can grow up in a family where love and understanding abound, one can love their adoptive parents and family, but being adopted means that someone had to give you up first. Being adopted in most places in the United States also means that the individual was stripped of the right to know his or her true identity in the mistaken belief that "identity" was not an important part of anyone's makeup and--identity.

And whether the adoption was good or bad, sweet or evil, longing to know the truth of one's identity is simply a matter of intelligent curiosity--a fact that most legislators and journalists and a fair number of adoptive parents have trouble comprehending. Yet only in adoption is curiosity considered pathological; in every other area, curiosity is seen as a sign of intelligence.

For mothers who relinquished their children--unless they can compartmentalize their emotions into a box and lock them up tight--we are never perfectly happy. We deal with the pain and sorrow of loss all our lives. We marry men we should not, we marry men simply because we know they will never leave us, we marry the next man who walks into the room. We have a life, yes, but we are always looking backwards, looking for the child we did not keep.

So please, dear newspaper and television reporters, stop telling the world how "perfectly happy" everybody was until they found their true parents and identities.

Adoption is always painful. Or here's a shorter version: Adoption sucks.

14 comments :

  1. "except some who are typing madly away at some adoption.com sites"

    There are many at AdoptionVoices who believe giving up their children was the best thing to do since they were in the early 20s and did not have any sufficient enough support to raise their child and go to class...

    "How can anyone truly be "perfectly happy" with the idea of having been born to a mother who could not keep you?"

    Because there are some adoptees who believe it was God's plan for them to end up in their adoptive families. Believe it or not, I take these folks' declarations at face value; that they are content with their lives and do not feel any curiousity or loss.

    "but being adopted means that someone had to give you up first"

    But some adoptees are so happy with the adoptive family they gained - *family* - that it doesn't bother them they were given up first. Their adoptive mother is consciously "all" that they've known (according to them), and that's enough for them.

    For some people to suggest these adoptees are "in denial" or that "but surely their adoptions must have affected them somehow" is like saying that since they aren't curious and do not wish to search, that something is wrong with them. And that is also invalidation.

    Of course, there's the invalidation for those who DO search and say they feel loss, but we've already been over that many times. ;P

    The really interesting thing is that adult adoptee Mei-Ling Hopgood went back to her family and did not feel the loss as intensely as many of the online adoptees do. She was curious, she was sad, but not overly so. No deep grief, no profound sorrow - at least that is the impression I got from her memoir.

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  2. Mei Ling said:

    "For some people to suggest these adoptees are "in denial" or that "but surely their adoptions must have affected them somehow" is like saying that since they aren't curious and do not wish to search, that something is wrong with them. And that is also invalidation."

    I agree with Mei Ling on this. I tend to take what people say about their own feelings at face value, whether I agree or think they "should" feel that way or not. I expect people to respect what I say about my feelings, and return that respect by accepting what others say about theirs.

    There is not one correct way for adoptees to feel about being adopted, good or bad, and the fact that people feel differently should not be used to criticize or question their perception of their own lives, nor to insist that they are "in denial". This is just the mirror image of the foes of open records insisting that any adoptee who wants to search is "disturbed" or "ungrateful".

    There is nothing wrong with searching and reuniting. There is nothing wrong with not searching either. It should be an adopted person's personal choice.

    I am not an adoptee, and I certainly can't read the minds of all adoptees or tell them how they should feel. Nor does the fact that some adoptees are happy and content not to search have anything to do with the quest for legal access to records as a CHOICE, not a mandate, for all adoptees.

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  3. I am a person that can see both sides - I was not adopted but abandoned to foster care.

    I spent many years with people that "cared" about me and thought that I should be happy with the knowledge that the parents that hd me did not want me.

    I am a birthmother because the same family that abandoned me at age 12, forced me into a situation where I had no control.

    So, for all those that say "I'm perfectly happy" I can tell you this - BS.

    Birth mothers are taught to say stupidities like they were happy doing what they did, they were too young, they did not have this or that. Over time they start to believe it.

    Good grief, I hate to say this, but no one, not one of the mothers I have ever met truly were happy with the decision made either by them or for them, no matter whether it was under duress or not. They found themselves unable to function as a real person. They hurt so deeply in such a deep personal way, that without even knowing how much they want to just hurt themselves.

    I know that if I had a choice, you can bet there is no way anyone else would have raised my daughter but me.

    Maybe then she would not scream at me how she hates me with a passion or how I am a curse. Or better that it is my fault that her parents were so evil.

    Come on people. We are genetically bound to our children. That is how the human race survives. When the child is taken from a living person, the child and the person never recover.

    Sigh....I am so tired of that "happy happy" crap. If a person is happy and does not want to know someone, why bother to put their info out there? I found my child through her own posting. So, if everything was so beautiful before I found her, why did she put the info out?

    Get real!

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  4. I find it hard (like as in impossible) to believe that any adoptee is going to be "perfectly" happy about having been adopted - or any mother about having relinquished.
    Still, if that's their story, it's not for me to gainsay it.

    I *totally* agree with Maryanne that the really important thing is for all adopted adults to have access to their records - so they can search or not as they please.

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  5. Commenters, please note new comment policy.

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  6. Just a thought: maybe adoptees who searched or were found saying that they were "perfectly happy" being adopted stemmed from the previous belief that only unhappy or disgruntled adoptees searched or wondered. They may have been asked by the interviewer, "did you search because you were unhappy, didn't like your adoptive parents etc" and then reiterated with "no, I was happy"....on to the next question.

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  7. Unlike Mei-Ling and others, I cannot take the happy-dappy statements from mothers and adoptees at face value. I just can't believe that truly happy people need to spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet proclaiming their state of joy.

    What I do believe is that they must state their happiness in order to fit in with society's mythological adoption themes. Have you ever noticed that those news stories always carry the exact same themes: "I have great APs whom I love, I never felt like something was missing, this is my real family." The writers use the same words, verbatim, in nearly EVERY article. Is this becuase people truly feel that way, or do they feel obligated to repeat the party line? I think it's the latter.

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  8. Maybe,

    I thought the original post was about reunited adoptees being interviewed by the media, not about those who "need to spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet proclaiming their state of joy."

    If there are blogs and comments out there by adoptees proclaiming that they are happy and do not want to search, and they spend a lot of time on that message, I would agree with you. But I did not think that was what this was about.

    Those answering a question when being interviewed are not focusing on just that one question, and since the articles involved were all about reunions that seem to have turned out well, I'd say our message that reunions are ok and not the end of the world is getting out there. It is becoming more and more normal for people to search, and happy or unhappy childhoods are not really relevant to the motivation for search. Also, those being interviewed may be reluctant to air the family "dirty laundry" to the media and strangers.

    Our side gives pretty much stock answers to stock questions too, people just are not that original no matter what their views.

    And in case this is in question, my own adoption experience was horrid and I am not happy about it. My son did not search and was not thrilled to be found not because he was so happy, but because he already had enough crap to deal with thanks to his adoptive mother, and did not need more from an unknown source who popped out the woodwork, me. That is my story, others may and do vary.

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  9. This comment is a little off topic of the this very insightful post that definitly hit home with me, (as most all of these posts do~ thank you Lorraine, Linda and Jane), but I would like to know who is coming here trying to post "attacks, profanity, nasty remarks and slanderous statements"

    The name of this blog is called BIRTHMOTHER, FIRST MOTHER FORUM, which means this is a place for US to come and vent (and for me, to have my feelings of the nightmare of adoption that I lived) validated by people who have walked in my shoes and felt the same feelings I have; which are NOT AT ALL HAPPY. I have not had one happy thought about losing my son to liars who conned me out of him. Not one. Sorry to burst anyone's bubble...

    I guess the truth hurts, so that's why people feel they have the nerve to come here and disrespect and degrade the authors who are helping those of us who suffer with the loss of our children.

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  10. The perfectly happy adoptee? I think this is only true in some cases, now and again. I came across too many adoptees, without looking, five out of six among friends (and also lots on-line too) who were absolutely not happy. This became hard to ignore.

    You may have seen the blog, below, as we are your blog's follower Point here is that we ended up saying that if adoption isn't working you can't blame adoptees; because often they would be on the receiving end of anger,less so now, but any from - who knows? the adoption industry?

    This blog is what I ended up having to do what with all the
    the immediacy of understanding that most all adoptees share, because I felt like it, here's the link >

    http://about-orphans.blogspot.com

    I think the "happy" word could be like when you politely say that you feel fine when asked how you are. It takes alot to try to tell people who aren't adopted what you feel because even good friends, if they're not adopted tell you that you should be grateful, when non adoptees don't, or they say you should feel lucky as if being adopted is sweepstake win.

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  11. Anonymous, I have no idea who would do that or why the posts would even be let in if they are of that nature. I think most of us posting here understand that this is a forum for first moms and the writers don't pretty it up for PAPS or a-parents or even adoptees; however, surely each party is allowed to give a viewpoint, though. That is what makes this blog so rich compared to other blogs that attract only one kind of readership.

    Now wading in about the "comments that state we should be speaking only for ourselves." Speaking for oneself is a good idea in general as opposed to making generalizations based on the group one is in. I don't claim to speak for all a-parents and I doubt FMF's writers would be able to capture the totality of what first mothers think (as a group). I don't see the harm in pointing out over-gneralizations when they occur. To me, this is just part of the give and take of blogs. We learn from each other; we see our stereotypes dismantled by others, not ourselves, often.

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  12. I don't care how many people report perfect happiness about adoption. All the propaganda in the world, like these stories being used to encourage relinquishment and sugar-coat the experience of loss, will never convince me that adoption is a good thing. Sometimes necessary? Okay, sure. But the best thing for all? NO!

    I realize that you and many of your followers don’t follow my blog since I write on a lot of topics, not just adoption. I want to alert all of you to an article that exposes crisis pregnancy centers.

    http://write-o-holic.blogspot.com/2009/09/new-culprit.html

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  13. Hello everybody:

    It's all in the language. It's all in the way a point of view is presented. WE continue to welcome disagreement, but not personal attack, or what seems to us to be a misrepresentation of our commentary. Of course we understand we do not "speak" for every and all first mothers, but we three do have a long experience with the loss of our children, and our posts ought to be read that way.

    Some of the comments in the past have been snarky and downright nasty, and we three have decided they are not worth our other readers' time. And neither is the constant back and forth going over the same subject. Each comment is given careful consideration, and if something new is added--I'm thinking of one that Osolomama wrote about the cost of her adoption--that will be appreciated and published.

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  14. Dear Jill:

    I have answered you privately, as you asked. xo

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