Recently, I got the tired, classic "I wish you would share the good experiences."
I thought to myself, "I wish you didn't feel it necessary to tell me
that you want me to alter my truth to validate your insecurities and
It's not that I don't have good experiences in
life. It's not that I don't think my adoptive parents and siblings are
good, or that my husband and children are good, or my friends, etc.,
etc. It's not that I'm not grateful for finding my Korean family and
getting to travel to Korea to meet them.
But everyone around me wants to romanticize the life that I live. Listen, folks, it's not romantic. It's not a fairy tale. I'm not saying other folks don't have it hard. But suffering is not a competition. And the hard thing about being adopted is that people still refuse to recognize that it is inherently problematic and traumatic. They still insist that adoption is universally and absolutely good.
not "good" losing not only your original mother but your entire family, people, country, culture, language--everything--and then being told your entire life to be grateful for it because some amazing couple was willing to take you in as their own. It's not good growing up the only Asian kid in a predominantly White community. It's not good getting made fun of and bullied because you're the one "yellow, slant-eyed chink" in school. It's even worse when your White, non-adopted siblings do the same thing and nickname you clever, witty things like "frog eyes" and "flat nose." And it's not good when you try to talk with your White parents about all of this, but they are completely naive and oblivious to it all.
It's not good when you look in the mirror and expect to see a White girl with blond hair and blue eyes just like your mom, but see a dark-haired, dark-eyed, yellowish girl staring back. It's jolting and confusing.
It's not good when the only boys and men that pay you any attention do so because of the stereotypes propagated about Asian females--and you know it, but you embrace the attention anyway because otherwise, no one pays you any attention. And again, you want to talk to your White parents about this but there remains a culture of silence in your family that you fear so deathly to break, because it might mean even further rejection by the only ones you've ever known as family.
It's not good when you can't have basic communication with your Korean
mother or father, because you don't speak the same language, not to
mention that you live on opposite sides of the world. It's not good when
my children most likely won't meet their Korean grandparents until who knows when because of the geographic and practical
It's not good when your American family likes to pretend that
your Korean family doesn't really exist and is not really a part of
your life or who you are.
It's not good when you feel like your children
are going to grow up feeling the same division and tension and conflict
because you haven't quite figured out how to bring it all together.
And I could go on and on...
yet still, you want to think that it is "good" to live life as an
adoptee. Do you really believe it is a good thing that we must live a
lifetime of being divided, stuck neither here nor there, in a daunting
psychological, social, cultural limbo?
Again, I ain't saying that my suffering is unique. I'm just saying that in the current adoption culture it is most often denied, dismissed, discounted, ignored, because the current adoption culture continues to characterize adoption as the good deed of all good deeds that cannot and should not be questioned.
Or, in other words, other than the initial loss (which, of course, only occurs at that moment of relinquishment and is henceforth compensated for by being adopted into a loving family) is ultimately a good experience.
So, Mila, why don't you talk about the good stuff?
Honestly, for me, I
don't often "share the good experiences," because--to burst that
bubble--I don't have a whole lot of good experiences associated with
being adopted. The reservoir of experiences that I deal with as a result
of my adoption includes rejection, abandonment (emotionally and physically), racism, alienation, isolation, division,
confusion, loss, relentless sorrow, grief, deep emotional pain, and so forth. The fact that
I have a "good," albeit ignorant, American family and am in reunion with
my Korean family does not magically erase all of that nor does it
somehow provide "compensation" for the hardship that being adopted has
exacted upon me or other adult adoptees.
What bothers me so much about the assumption that adoption is why I have anything good in my life and hence I should just shut my trap and be grateful is that it leaves no room for the complexity of my life as an adoptee nor does it consider the possibility of alternative scenarios.
The good in my life--my husband, my children, my family, my friends--were not necessarily given to me by adoption or as a result of adoption. This is the good in life that comes to people apart from adoption--it's part of the human experience. These are the social structures on which humanity is built--we are social beings. Non-adopted people have spouses, children, family, friends, too, right? We can just as easily say that they have this good in their lives because they were not adopted.
Furthermore, there are folks--both adopted and not adopted and otherwise, of course--who sadly do not have this kind of good in their lives. But it is not necessarily as a result of them being adopted or not being adopted. I think you get my point--I'm basically trying to explain why it makes no sense to tell me that I should be grateful because adoption gave me all the good in my life. The adoptee experience is too varied and complex to be treated as indubitably good.
I realize, however, that there are situations in which adoption does place a parent-less or family-less child within a family, and that there are situations in which adoption is absolutely necessary. I realize that there are circumstances in which a child would otherwise grow up outside of a permanent family if he or she had not been adopted. But too often people discount perspectives and experiences like mine and other adoptees with similar viewpoints as anomalous, ungrateful, and even embittered. And additionally, people often do not consider that perhaps certain children would not have been in need of adoption if the current system did not use a combination of social pressures, emotional manipulation, religious mandate, etc. to promote adoption at the expense of family preservation.
Yet my point ultimately is that the truth is more complicated than the oversimplified binary outcomes that so many people often associate with adoptees--you could have been adopted into a wholesome loving family that would provide you with material comforts and opportunities or you could have languished in an orphanage and ended up on the streets as a prostitute, hence adoption saved you and gave you the good life of which you would have otherwise been deprived.
This simply is not the whole reality. If only it were that simple. That binary. That easy to separate. But the truth is that adoption is not necessarily what saved me. And it is not the giver of all the good in my life.
And if this truth
bothers you or makes you feel like something is wrong with me and my
perspective, or makes you want to shut out my voice and similar
voices--I sincerely call you to ask yourself why you feel that way about my experience, because my experience doesn't have anything to do with you personally.
it bothers you, because there is a truth to it that resonates with you
somewhere within--but it's a truth that just might sting or jab
you in the chest in a way that takes your breath away. (I know it does that to me everyday of my life.)
Well, then, I might just say, that is a good thing. Am I contradicting myself? Not at all.
What I'm saying is not that the pain itself is a good thing, but that perhaps facing the hard side of the truth is.
To read more posts written by Mila at Lost Daughters, click here.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Monday, June 17, 2013
By guest blogger: Holly
When the fog clears, you find yourself with a very large pile of rubble. The type of rubble that takes years to sift through in order to pick out the valuables left behind. It isn't for the faint of heart.
I am an adoptee born in the “baby scoop” era; 1963. My birthmother; was one of the Florence Crittenton girls who disappeared from her small home town shortly after discovering her pregnancy. Adopted at 3 weeks of age by a 35 year old childless couple, I grew up an only child who always knew I was adopted. I was raised by a woman who likely would not have passed a home study today. I never bonded with her, and never heard “I love you.” growing up. While I was always clothed, fed, and had all my basic needs met – life was very shame based. “My story” was a lie, and any questions I asked resulted in my being shamed into silence. There was verbal, emotional and physical abuse. I left home at 17 years old, and I never returned.
When I turned 18, I immediately visited the Family Service Agency, which had handled my adoption. I was given the obligatory non-identifying info, and began a search that lasted 5 years. I met my biological mother and her family, to include 2 half siblings when I was 22 years old. The reunion was happy, yet overwhelming for me. I had two young children and a dysfunctional marriage at the time.
Fast forward to 2005; so much life happened in that time. (Another marriage, two more children, another divorce, and rejection from my biological father – a whole other story!) I had recently come out of my “adoption fog”, as well as the “reunion honeymoon” phase. My current husband and I had started the process to adopt a child from China. The wait was a long one, over 3 years to be exact. I spent those years studying attachment theory and disorders. What I learned was not what I expected. I was the one with the disorder.
Anxious/ambivalent to be exact. Yes, I’d been through some therapy, but never did the therapists think my adoption issues were important. I tried to address them, only to be silenced. Again. Fortunately there was Nancy Verrier (a godsend!) and her books, “The Primal Wound”, and even more importantly, “Coming Home to Self”. The later opened my eyes to many of my repeated behaviors, and I began to see the accountability that lay with me. Only I could change my reactions, and not be doomed to be a product of my past.
Recently I began to follow a blog: http://www.karencaffrey.com/blog/. The most helpful thing I've ever heard was when Karen asked something like, “In your reactions are you coming from the rational thinking adult, or the wounded inner child?” My moment of Ah – Ha! I began to see the pattern.
I’m acutely aware of my now 5 year old daughter’s issues. I notice things about her that other’s wouldn't see. I can’t fix that hole she’ll carry. I can’t take away “adoptedness” from her. I know that love doesn't fix everything. My heart hurts for her. Whatever her journey, I’ll be available and non-judgmental. And I hope I can be gentle on myself, accepting that no parent is perfect.
So where do I go now with this? I read. I study. I journal. And I ask myself that question; Is this my hurt child, or is it the adult I am now? Not as easy as it sounds, especially when you've been doing things the same way for so many years. But with practice, I’m confident I can begin to catch myself. And maybe, just maybe….I’ll start looking for a therapist who has experience in adult attachment issues.
About me: Holly is an adult adoptee and former blogger called “The Creepy Adoptee”. She was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ, and after 9 years in Washington State, is returning to the Arizona heat. She’s been in reunion for over 25 years. She is the mother of five children, two step-children, a grandmother, occasional photographer and a lover of books.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
|Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
But amid all this diversity is the the one thing we have in common. For all of us, fatherhood includes an element of absence. Each of us is defined in part by the man who wasn't there.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Got past Mother's Day going to get past Father's Day too. Being adopted you never really in totality get past the loss and pain. Especially when you are rejected by two families.
I spoke with my adoptive mother today regarding contact from a relative concerning a passing in our family. We've never done well with communication or understanding one another since I am usually the odd woman/person out in the family. Never accepted for who I am, nor will I ever be. I am the polar opposite of my adoptive family. That I came to terms with long, long ago. The rejection, not so easy.
But today our phone conversation was much different. I didn't hear the critical, nagging, judgmental woman my adoptive mother is, I heard instead someone I didn't know. Or more accurately, someone who didn't know me. Sure, neither of us are young anymore I am nearly 54 she is 84. However, hearing the words "You are Karen? I don't remember.....we haven't seen you in a long time."
Well, last time in person was 5 years ago. But also, there are no visits from her, phone calls, or attempts to establish a relationship nor will there ever be. I didn't turn out to be the child they wanted. They had a biological one thankfully who is. You can blame age, dementia, or Alzheimers but the fact is in our adoptive family circumstance it's always been about people who are nothing alike jammed together by the adoption machine and an attempted "family" equation that failed.
My own biological mother rejected me 15 years ago. I am a secret child and my siblings don't know about my existence. Contact and info was rejected by my biological father as well. I belong in neither family.
I don't want anyone to die or me to die being bitter, angry, or resentful. What I do what is RECOGNITION. I also know, none of that may ever happen.
How do adoptees accept the continual rejection of adoptive and biological parents? I am nearly 54 and still working on it. I hate to admit it but I am lost, and always will be.
Posted by Assembling Self