Saturday, September 25, 2010

Uh, Yeeaaah, Right

I read an interesting viewpoint on The Declassified Adoptee, this morning, about telling adopted children they are adopted..what to say, what not to say, etc. Being neither adopter nor adoptee, I've not been privy to the emotions surrounding this action, but I have been told things that were said that gripe my gizzard to the max. I have also been told things that were said that any child with a brain would question..even the younger ones.

I mean, look at what mine were told. How many children are going to miss the contradictions in a statement such as, "Your mother loved you so much she gave you up?" They don't understand coercion and social pressure and understanding that "she wasn't able to take care of you so she gave you to us" is also hard to swallow.

My oldest's adopters had one of those saccharine, little books about how special it is to be adopted and they read it to her at an early age. Rather than having the desired effect of her happy acceptance of the situation, she was full of questions. She never could understand why I didn't come see her and she would wait for me on special days, thinking that, surely, I would come to her. I guess she didn't understand closed records and secret adoptions either, or see the sense in any of it.

She did learn, at an early age, that she shouldn't talk about her adoption outside the home. That, I am sure, gave her the impression that being adopted was, somehow, shameful. She has never been able to accept the fact that the lies and fantasies she was told were generated BY her adopters. She blames the state agency.

I did a good bit of digging and found out a few things. The people that adopted her pulled a few crony strings and made sure that, should I ever ask for information, I would be told that no records of her birth and adoption even existed. I was told this AFTER it became legal to gain access to non-identifying information. Finally, in the early 90's, after persisting and persisting, my daughter received non-ID on me that, while not entirely factual, was enough for her to find me.

 Years earlier, when my daughter turned 18, she went to the agency, accompanied by her adopters, and was told a few facts along with a plethora of lies and twisted data. Although I cannot reveal my source, I was later told, by my source, that the information she was given was arranged between the state agency and her adopters. Insecure, obviously, and tired of her questions, the adopters (NOT the agency) told her I was dead, killed in an auto accident. She searched for a grave for many years.

When she went to see the adopters, excited and happy to have found me, she was greeted by this from the woman who adopted her. "We were told this would be impossible." I learned that this was a requirement from the get-go with these people...that there would never be a natural mother to muddy the tinted waters of their as-if-born-to fantasy. I also saw a picture of a very insecure woman who needed her dream world protected and reality kept at bay. I have managed, after many years of resentment, to feel a modicum of pity for her. My daughter has never accepted her adopters' culpability in all the flim-flam that went on. When I shared, as part of my own experience, here on my blog, what the woman who adopted her said to me after we reunited, she called an end to our 17-year reunion. I love her, but I can't continue to ignore facts and suffer lies. I certainly will not honor people who lied to my child for their own purposes.

My son has never shared what he was told and how he was told. He has kept his relationship with me on a very surface level, for the most part. The fact that he is a repeat offender with anger management problems does tell me more than he realizes. I do know that there was a lot of physical "discipline" involved in his rearing.

While both of my adult, reunited children were told of their adoption at an early age (I think I would have really blown up if they had not been told), I question what and how they were told. As soon as my raised children were able to understand, I told them about their siblings and tried to explain things to them. I had a lot of tough questions to answer from them, as well. One was, "why can't we go get them and bring them home?" Oh Lord, did I ever wish.... Then I had to deal with the one about, "why didn't you give us up for adoption?" Try explaining the sexual mores of the EMS to young teens in the early 80's. They couldn't believe that, as a child, I watched a black and white TV with only 3 channels and that we had to use a roof-based antenna. And how do you tell your children that their mother was raped only four months after losing her first-born to adoption?

Kids are smarter than we often give them credit for being. Our thought processes, as we age, become more and more convoluted by gray areas and situational semantics and all the blah, blah, blah of the adult world. A child cuts to the core with no side trips. For anyone to think that they can give a child a pat, canned answer like, "she loved you so much...." and that will suffice doesn't live in a real world with real kids. Kids need straight answers and all the facts.

Better yet, keep the child in the family of origin, preferably with that child's natural mother, and they won't need all those contrived answers.


jenny81271 said...

My morning flashback, to 2002, I finally received a first, precious letter from my daughter....tearing it open I was ecstatic and dismayed to see her write" my parents always told me what a "gift I had given them"...."My mom and dad have always takled about the tremendous amount f love and care that it must have taken for you to give me up for adoption" I had a freakin' choice in 1971. Then she went on to explain that I had given her "the most wondeful, supportive environment" with two parent that love me dearly and that really thank you for giving me to them....and yet, both have found a way to keep her loyalty to them from letting her make full contact with me....she says find her, agency says parents are afraid of eight years later I still search.....lies and still talks....and I have none. Sigh.........always, Jenny

Real Daughter said...

I had a lot of difficulties with this question. Amanda had asked quite a few of us how we were told, and what suggestions we may have for ap's who are in the process of telling their adoptlings.

I have an excellent memory...but that is something I have absolutely no recollection about. Maybe it's because it was too traumatic? Or, maybe, it's because Im almost 45 and on most days, I forget my phone number? I don't know.

I have never even thought about how I would tell a kid they were adopted, because adopting is something I would have never done.

I can't even remember how I told my own kids that I was adopted, although Im sure it was some rainbowesque garbage similar to what I was force fed my entire life. Im sure I did not use the chosen word, but I dont remember exactly what I said.

I found my Mother when my kids were 3 1/2, 18 months, and one was not even born, so it has been a part of their lives since day one. I think I will pick their brains to see what they can remember.

All I know is that I rejected the ideas of being a "chosen child", "being a gift" and "that it was God's plan" from day one, so Im sure my ap's told me the crap that most BSE ap's told their kids.

I could not give Amanda any advice, other than what a few said as far as leaving the things our own ap's told us out of their conversation with their child.

And like you said, Robin, "keep the child in the family of origin, preferably with that child's natural mother, and they won't need all those contrived answers." That would solve everything, lol. I think my mind will not allow this hypothetical situation/conversation with ap's to happen, because it knows how dangerous adoption is to us.

Now I need to go pick my brain. Its really bothering me that I cannot remember my ap's telling me I was adopted.

Mei Ling said...

I remember asking about my adoption when I was six or seven. It wasn't the first time I had ever been told - it's just the first time I can consciously remember asking about it.

I got the answers above: "She loved you so much she gave you up."

I persisted on this because it made no sense. Surely if she loved me that much, she would have kept me, duh!

So I just told myself she obviously hadn't loved me.

Amanda Woolston said...

There will be a part II, so Linda, if you remember and want to share, let me know :-)

This is why I can't stand pre-birth matching, AP profiles, "dear birthmother" letters and people offering favors and paying for an expectant mother's care. It comes too close to influencing the "decision" that is hers to make, that she ought to make without influence, certainly not with the influence of those who she will be surrendering her child to. Because again, how do you explain that to the adoptee?

I really do not know the situation of the AP who asked me this question. She seems to really care about raising her child in an environment that's different than the blunders made in the past that so many people on my blog post commented about and she wants a lot of adoptee input.

Robin said...

Amanda, no matter how sincere the adopter might be, it is still an unnatural situation for that child. That's something that is hard for adopters to accept...that and the grief and pain of the mother. I agree, wholeheartedly, with your dislike of pre-birth matching and "Dear Beemommy" solicitation.

Robin said...

PS: It isn't just "influencing." It's subtle but effective coercion.

Chris said...

I don't believe my daughter ever heard the 'she loved you so much' rhetoric as to the whys she was surrendered. This I do know, when I and my dau's amother talked directly, face to face..amother told me that she told 'her' daughter (at a young age) that she was 'given up' because her mother (the birthmother term was not in common usage back then)was too poor to keep her. Seems my dau always knew she was adopted, at what age she was told, I don't know.
Just some weeks ago I had a phone convo with my eldest daughter, I asked her if she ever as a child or teen, even as an adult..before our reunion, did she ever talk openly with her adoptive parents about her adoption, about being adopted. She said, No. I asked, Why? She said, I don't know, but I know I can talk to you about anything. And that is as far as our conversation went. She still hides from the subject of 'adoption', she simply won't go there, 'as if' outwardly it never happened. Internally what she feels or thinks about adoption, I certainly don't know..the 'anything' excludes 'adoption'. It is hers/our 'White Elephant' in the room and has impacted our reunion most negatively.

Unknown said...

I never heard they loved you so much they gave you away. I heard that they didn't feel they could make a home for me at that time in their life. I was very young and I pictured these puzzled people looking at house building plans.

I never thought about whether my mother loved me or not consciously, I certainly felt that there was no love there. I didn't think of her, I thought that I wanted to go back to the orphanage. Then there wouldn't be all these expectations for me to fail to meet.

I figured that my mother had been in a real crap situation and that is why she gave me up.

Von said...

Fortunately in the days of my adoption all that stuff about being loved so much you were given up by your mother,being a gift of love etc hadn't been invented because neither had the adoption industry in it's full glory.
The first thing I remember was being taken on a visit to the orphange and the feelings it brought up.I was about three and terrified.

Robin said...

Sorry, non-published Anon...but the "bitter" bit doesn't play here. Most of us moms function just fine...about in proportion to the rest of the general population. A theory is a theory. Living a situation and knowing is much different. There is a wide gap between righteous indignation over an injustitce and dysfunctional bitterness. This is an old insult. Find something new.

J. Marie Jameson said...

Like Linda, I don't remember specifically when I was told. I just always remember knowing. My parents told me that all doctors they every spoke to told them to use the word around me and when I was ready to know more, I would ask. I'm assuming that time was around age 5 because that's when I remember asking what adopted meant. My parents told me I had two mothers and two fathers; one mother gave birth to me but was unable to care for me. I don't recall asking if they loved me or if I did something bad to be given away. For much of my younger years (pre-middle school), I don't ever remember feeling or believing that my mother didn't want me or didn't love me. My adoption became more of an issue as I grew up and started to really think about things and started to want to know more information. I was never told my mom loved me so much that she gave me away; I heard that one later in life from from school mates who thought they were being smart. I also was never told that it was god's plan. I do sort of recall being told that my parents chose me which later on when I asked for all my paperwork, they were quick to tell me the truth because the paperwork mentioned the fall through of a previous adoption. I don't remember anyone specifically calling me a gift or saying that my birth mother gave them a wonderful gift. I did thank my birth mother for giving me the life that because by the time I found her, I had already learned that her mother took her for an abortion but my birth mom had hid the pregnancy long enough to make sure an abortion was impossible. Apparently, she knew her mother would take her for an abortion and she didn't want that.