Saturday, August 21, 2010

Those Saintly Adopters

If ever a segment of the population was beatified by myth and misunderstanding, it would be those who adopt. Somewhere, in our Puritanical melange of sexual fears and foibles, infertility became another word for purity. Those who adopt became the rescuers, the icons of parental perfection and, most damaging of all, the more ENTITLED.

We were promised something that, at the time, we didn't know couldn't be delivered when we were shorn of our infants by the "adoption good shepherds." We had to believe because we had no other option. It was either believe that these paragons that were being described to us were real or go completely insane with worry. Through the veil of secrecy and judgement, we saw Ward and June Cleaver...clean and wise and oh, so parental. These people were presented, as it was told to one of my friends as "the better parents for your child."

We had already become less than worthy in the eyes of our parents and society and, often, even in the eyes of the boys who fathered our children. Being presented with Joseph and Mary as alternatives to shameful us was dirty pool. With our backs against the wall, we hung on to that picture in our minds in order to do what we were being compelled to do. It was also implied that, since these adopters would be so perfect for our children, our children would never have a need to know us. Indeed, we were threatened with jail and worse should we ever try to find our children.

Imagine the surprise, horror, fear and frustration of those who adopt and the facilitators when our adult children started searching for and FINDING their natural mothers. As one adopter put it when the woman they had adopted as an infant told them of her wonderful discovery, "How did this happen? We were told this would be impossible." With the search and reunion phenomenon came the realization that those who adopt had a very human set of horns beneath their halos.

In their own words: "After all we have given you, you want to know that slut?" "She didn't want you then. Why should she want you now?" "Poor people don't deserve to raise children. They made their own problems." "That little bitch decided to keep OUR baby. That baby should belong to US. We deserve it more than a 16-year-old whore." "If you insist on seeing that woman you can forget about your inheritance." "I always knew you had some bad blood in you. Why else would you do this to us?" Please note that these statements came from adoptees relating them to their natural mothers or on support groups.

The jealousy, insecurity, possessiveness and all the other results of never directly addressing their infertility issues and other problems  came pouring out in disparaging and hateful remarks. They had paid for "as if born to" and they were not going to admit the didn't get their money's worth. Then there were those who pretended support, but only in order to control the reunion. These are the women who would sit with the mother and share photos but never offer her copies. There are the women who were sure to be first at the table of family goodies.

For the majority of us mothers in reunion, we learned a sad truth. Our children may have been loved, but that love carried conditions. Our children were there, not to be raised in a better family and protected from the label of illegitimacy, but to salve the adopter's emotions and fill their need to be seen as parents. There were a few note-worthy exceptions but they only proved the rule.

Now, we are not talking about those who adopted older, special needs children who had been languishing in foster care. We are talking about the adopters who lusted after the womb-fresh infant. These are the adopters that drank the Kool Aid of their group, which made them believe that they were more worthy than the natural mother. Most of them knew the pain this must have caused that mother, but they really didn't and still don't care. They also turned a blind eye to the primal grief and confusion of the child they adopted. The emotional impact on the adoptee was tremendous, but that has not been what the majority of adopters wanted to know. One of their own, Nancy Verrier, wrote about this impact in "The Primal Wound" and still the demand for fresh baby-flesh prevails.

When many of us emerged from our "good little beemommy" fog, one of the first hard lessons we learned is that St. and Ste. Adopters did not exist. Human all, some were worse and some were better but all were just as flawed as anyone else. And some did some really hateful and nasty things to us and to the children they purported to love. The attachment many of us have noticed between our adult children and their adopters is more co-dependent than familial. Even to the grave and beyond, many an adoptee is doing their duty to protect the feelings of the adopter and losing themselves in the fight.

The mother usually sits back and lets this happen because she cannot be drawn into this dysfunction without losing the tenuous relationship with the adoptee and causing more emotional harm to herself. If the adoptee is willing, they will notice who puts the pressure on and who doesn't. Sometimes, we slip and let it out and there is a confrontation and a back-off.  And sometimes, self-esteem refuses to let us stay silent so we say our piece and let the water find its own level. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn't. That's when you love and let go.

I don't apologize for being angry and mistrustful of those who adopt. My experience and the experiences of many of my friends, mothers AND adoptees, have shown me that the superhuman adopter is a myth told to vulnerable young girls and the general public. I have to wonder how many people adopt just to catch a halo for themselves? It is their pretension to superiority. Right now, I am talking to an old friend and her reunited daughter...said daughter having been emotionally abused for most of her life by the "superior (read rich)" adopters. It hurts to hear her talk about it, just as it has hurt to see the results of adoption trauma in my own children.

We all really need to take another close look at Ward and June,


Lori said...

I understand your friend's issue - I live in that place also - a daughter that was abused her entire life. I pay the price.

jenny81271 said...

I have said it before and will say it talks and talks and sad that it does! It broke me, and my heart..and has guilted my daughter, into telling me to "find her" because she feels guilty too...and I continue to wish I had the money to find the info to "find her"...what a strange feeling to "know" her only by picture and a lone letter, and know that she probably WANTS to know me, but won't go the one step further because of guilt bought by their "old" money and influence..sorry I am on a pity party today...I will never get over it.

Sandy Young said...

Can I hear a great big AMEN to that one, and Boy Howdy, did you nail it with this one! I am seeing that more and more, the entitlement, the arrogance, and the sense of their own self-importance. It must really rattle their teeth when their children find, not slatterns or sluts, not lightskirts or nuns, but just regular women, no better or worse than they themselves are. End of myth. End of fairytales. Living, breathing women with wisdom far beyond their own, having been tested by fire. They tried and thought that they had accomplished the usurption of our motherhood. They were wrong. We didn't have the good grace to actually perish in our grief, we were hardened by it and learned from it. Like the Phoenix, we arose from the ashes of our despair years later, strong, proud, willful and brave. Don't they wish....!

Von said...

What an excellent post, you've hit it right there.Perhaps one of the most distressing things is that it's not in the past and is going on right this minute in a place somewhere near you.
Posting a link, hope that's ok.

Robin said...

I keep going back to something sent to me in a message by a lovely lady who was adopted. She opined that recognizing the role played by one's adopters as part of the problem was one of the hardest things to do when trying to heal.