It's New Year's Eve, time to reflect back on the year, and to make resolutions for 2013. I have a somewhat "radical" suggestion, and I would love to hear what you think ...
First things first, full disclosure: I have always been a people-pleaser. I'm the eldest child. I'm typical 'type A,' perfectionist control-freak. Insult-to-injury? I'm adopted.
As a child, the role of perfect daughter came easily to me. I was the adoptee who was subconsciously afraid of being given back, or given away. Not that it was possible, or threatened, or something I thought of consciously. It was simply the logical extension of the narrative my adoptive parents told me: “Your birth mother loved you enough to give you up, and now we love you.”
... So you could give me up, too.
I was aware of my desire to fulfill my adoptive mom’s dream of being a mother. I was determined to be the good child for whom she had prayed to God.
Meeting my First Mother
Reuniting with my first mother was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, as I've written before. Reunion filled a whole in my heart, it made me question all of the decisions I’d made so far in my life. My first mother and I connected on a deep, physical and emotional level.
Not only that, but my reunion was one of the first times when I realized that it was in fact “all about me.” I surprised myself in that I felt totally fine about this.
From the beginning of our reunion, my natural mother let me take the lead. She shielded me from her grief and she was careful to share with me painful pieces of information about my relinquishment little-by-little.
Everyone constantly asked, "How are your parents handling things?"
It’s a funny question, but it’s one that’s “normal,” among those who know little about how hard adoption can be on the actual adoptee! Generally, I brushed off the question, answering, “They’re fine.”
Sometimes, when I was feeling particularly sassy, I have to admit, I did add, “They’re not the ones meeting their biological family for the very first time in their lives, you know?”
Once reunion fever set in, I stopped worrying what my adoptive parents were going through. I didn’t try to defend my decision to search to people I hardly knew. This was my reunion. Feeling guilt about reuniting, or trying to manage others’ reactions was simply too much for me to take on.
Be the Trump Card
As I’ve gotten more involved in the so-called 'adoption blog world,' I’ve been reading over and over how worried adoptees are about how their adoptive parents will feel.
Will they think I don’t love them if I search? I could search, but I couldn’t tell my adoptive parents, they’d be too upset. Or, My natural family could never meet my adoptive family, that would be to hard for all of them.
I’ve seen adoptees go to such psychological, physical and logistical lengths to provide for the privacy, safety and emotional security of the people who raised them ... aaaand worry the same things for their natural families.
I admit, especially in the “honeymoon period” of my reunion, I believed my natural mom could do. no. wrong. It was maddening for those close to me (friends and fiancé, not just my adoptive parents). I get it, for a time, I became a different person; in complete wonderment at the reunion for which I’d waited my entire life.
How can I suggest this delicately? ... Be the trump card
This might sound wrong, or presumptuous, or just plain bitchy, but ... Be the trump card. (Something that gives one person or group the advantage over another, dictionary.com.)
From the cultural dictionary, trump card =
In general, something capable of making a decisive difference when used at the right moment; in certain card games, trump is the suit designated as having precedence over the others.
We, dear adoptees, can make the decisive difference in how our family and friends view our own reunion.
Whether considering searching, or not. Whether found, or in long-term reunion. It’s all about the adoptee; we’re the children in this equation.
We're the tiny baby who didn’t consciously know what was happening;
We're the child who, of course, loved her (adoptive) parents!
We're the eighteen-year-old whose records opened up (in some states), but was unprepared for the opened emotional wound.
We're the adult who is still figuring out all of this adoption s....
Now, now, Be the trump card! ... That’s a mighty selfish statement!
Yes, it is necessary to explain our perspective on adoption (i.e. educate those who don't know or never tried to understand) to those close to us—kindly, gently, with emotional intelligence ... But with boundaries. With the knowledge that whatever we feel, however we want to shape our reunions, it is up to us, the adoptee.
We, dear adoptees, are the trump card in this equation.
Just a suggestion ... let your New Year’s Resolution be to ... Be the trump card.
* * * * *
Laura writes about adoption and expat mommy life. Her memoir, Adopted Reality, is available on Amazon.
image from freedigitalphotos.net