I said that many adoptees don't search until their parents are much older or dead, because then they feel that are free to do so. I said that adoptees don't search because unconsciously you [adoptive mother] have made it clear that doing so would hurt you very much. She understood. And she added that she always thought her daughter would search one day. I realized that my new acquaintance instinctively understood that the desire to know one's history and reconnect with kin on some level was instinctual, and not unusual. She wasn't being aggressive; I think she was simply surprised to meet a birth mother in real life, at a New Year's luncheon in an artist's studio.
What I was thinking is that no matter how much we try to make our reality--that is, that of adoptees and natural mothers--known, our voices aren't reaching enough people to make the difference they need to make. The occasional movie on Lifetime--or even the film Philomena--hasn't fully penetrated our social consciousness. They are seen as "women's stories," though boys are adopted and birth and adoptive fathers are everywhere. I've tried to break through with my writing, but I stood there thinking how far we have to go.
|My daughter and me, first summer|
after reunion, in Sag Harbor.
Conversation continues: I quickly learn that the woman talking to me over the quiche selection on the buffet table knew about open adoption in 1989 when she adopted--and knew they were becoming popular--but decided against openness because "she didn't feel she couldn't handle it." She said she might get too involved with the natural mother. The woman is not aggressive or nasty, simply honest. I like her honesty but I thought: she couldn't deal with the thought of sharing her daughter with another mother, because that is what a true open adoption is--and should be. She had to write out the chapter of the natural mother in her adoption story.
I was tactful but forthright, but I did not point out the obvious, that when she adopted she thought of what she could handle, not what her daughter was losing, and the impact of being cut off from her natural mother and family. Though she was obviously intelligent and well read, she was oblivious to these issues; they had not entered her thinking when she adopted. I knew that if we kept on talking, no matter how I framed my words, they would seem confrontational as I challenged her thinking. It's the rare situation where I can discuss adoption and its myriad problems--especially with an adoptive parent--without an emotional reaction and surely this was not one of them. There was too much I wanted to say. I ended the conversation before my heart rate went up like crazy. I could already feel it pounding.
As she was leaving, she gave me her card, and said she was going to get my book. We have to educate, one by one, wherever and whenever we can. Speaking up helps all of us.--lorraine
Afterthought: Next time someone says, My son/daughter isn't interested in searching... (often preceded by, I asked her/him..supposedly telegraphing the idea that asking at whatever point exonerates them) I am going to say--Don't you think that's unusual?
Because people not adopted understand why the normal reaction is to be interested in one's own story of birth and kin, as in Who? Where? Why was I not raised by my mother??? Adoptive parents must recognize that expressed lack of interest in one's own history as atypical, but don't want to acknowledge that. The "not interested" answer does not challenge their position as Only Parent Who Deserves Love and Interest.
The person who's "not interested" in their paternity/maternity has learned that the appropriate response to their wonderment is to express that non-interest, and thus they have made that non-interest their own. Knowing that expressing interest in their own birth story is going to be read as "Aren't I alone good enough for you?" and thus hurt their parents, whom presumably they love. Ultimately, that squelches desire. If you know you never can have something, why keep yearning for it? Especially when expressing that curiosity will hurt someone you love?
Yep, the next time I hear "not interested" from anyone,. I'm going to say: Isn't that weird? Why do you think that is? Can you imagine not being interested in who you are, or where you came from?
It is actually the most honest response, and put the ball back in the speaker's court. In the past, I've felt somewhat defensive when someone tells me of their son's or daughter's non-interest in people like me, but maybe this will turn that around for me emotionally.
Adoptive parents should be defensive about their children expressing no interest in their own lives. What did they, the adoptive parents, or the system, do to shut down normal curiosity about one's roots? As others have said, Curiosity in every other area is seen as a sign of intelligence. In adoption, however, that curiosity has been seen as pathology. Time to turn the tables and make non-interest a sign not of pathology, but at least suspect.
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The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child
by Nancy Verrier