Saturday, December 21, 2013

An Adoptee's Past, Present, and Future

The Sands of Time

Sifting through the sands of time examining my past.
Watching life I call my own pass through the hour glass.
So much has been forgotten.
So much I've left behind.
So much that has been buried I search for but can not find.
People who have come and gone and those still here today.
Faces I have never seen that long since went away.
Missing links and histories leave only gaping holes.
Oh how I'd love to hear all of those stories left untold.
Each has left their mark upon my soul and memory.
This life that was created, an everlasting legacy.

I always knew since the age of five I was adopted. What that meant I really had no idea other than I was told my mother was young and couldn't take care of me. The answers to my questions stopped there no further information was ever given other than she was young, petite, and pretty.

Looking back I now see defining moments where I realized things were “not right” in my adoptive family.  That in comparing my friend's parents and watching them interact, my relationship with my adoptive parents was obviously not normal.   I was not welcomed with smiles and hugs as my friends were by their parents.   There was no approval in my Adoptive parents eyes.  Instead there always seemed to be a certain distain and disappointment.  No matter how hard I tried or how much I strove to be “good” I always seemed to end up being severely punished for misbehaving and being “bad”. I remember being about eight or nine, my Adoptive mother smirking one day while peeling potatoes, snickered “No wonder your mother gave you away.”  Who SAYS that to their child?   Oh yeah, one who really isn't their mother.

As I entered my teenage years and began to develop my own personality it only heightened the animosity between my adoptive parents and myself.  They were quiet, introverted, and emotionally conservative. I was expressive, social, and demonstrative.  They were frustrated and angry not understanding why I didn't conform to who they were, and I was wounded and suffering from them not understanding I was only being who I was.  And, with the birth of an unexpected biological child to my adoptive parents it was evident they could not attach to me, but had no problem whatsoever in bonding with a child that was their flesh and blood.   It only magnified the differences between us and the damage to my sense of self had already been done.  

Fast forward to High School sitting in a movie theater with my boyfriend watching “Mommy Dearest”. Yes, Adoptees will understand where I am going with this immediately.   My jaw was almost dropped into my popcorn and I thought “this is my life”.   Maybe not verbatim, but it closely resembled it enough that it was tough to watch at times but also validating to begin to comprehend that what had, and was happening to me, was not my fault.  I had some pieces of the puzzle to fit together but lots of parts were missing.  I picked my first self help book “I'm O.K. You're O.K.”, which deals somewhat with child psychology, and began to attempt to unravel the confusion I felt about my family and home life.

I entered college and my first semester took Psych 101.   Sitting in lecture we were reviewing a study done with monkeys where they were placed with faux mothers.   These mothers had faces like other monkeys but their bodies were wire type figures.  One monkey had a mother figure that was covered in a warm blanket and radiated heat while giving out warm milk.  That monkey attached and thrived.  The other monkey's mother was ice cold and the milk was ice cold and, well we all know what happened to that monkey.  I remember it was excruciating for me to watch and I was almost in tears.  It hit home, I was the unattached monkey who was not thriving.  Maybe physically, but not emotionally in any capacity.

When I had my first child I immediately felt this protective overwhelming love for this baby.  As often is the case with adoptees our first child is the only person we have ever been biologically related to. As my daughter grew along with our bond, I looked back on my own childhood the evidence mounted that adoption was the factor in my mothers lack of ability in attaching to me.  I was nothing like her, we were night and day, and nothing I did could fill the huge chasm of differences and bring us together.  Ever.  Although I knew this was not my fault intellectually, I felt ashamed that somehow two mothers couldn't love me.  The abuse and emotional neglect had scarred me much deeper than physically.

The huge issue is that attachment and bonding can often be complicated and difficult when it comes to adoption.  You can take a branch from a tree and sever it from it's origin and graft it onto another tree successfully.  But, that branch will still bloom and grow in it's original form. It may take nourishment from the new tree and flourish if the bond forged is a strong and healthy one.   Are there nonadopted children who don't attach with biological parents, certainly.   However, Adoptees already have been unattached from their families of origin so the issue looms larger in our lives.

Adoptees have been expected to become like their adoptive families, the Blank Slate Theory. Their roots, nature, and genetics have been whitewashed as if they don't exist.   The legacy of the closed records era in adoption has had a huge impact on the masses of adult adoptees struggling with the conflicting nature vs. nurture, especially when nature is a mystery, and the discussion or knowledge of it is hidden and swept under the rug.  Had I have had the information I do now about my biological family and the genetic person I was and am younger, how much different my life would have been.

It is not just the “bad experience” of a few adoptees, it is widespread and rampant.  With the large on and offline adoptee support groups, and the many now who are writing of their lives and experiences being adopted, it speaks volumes for the drastic changes that are necessary if adoption is to function in any capacity as best for the children it is to supposed to provide for.   Adoptees are here to say “Please listen to us carefully” because it is that vital for future adoptees, for their children, and for the families who want what is best for them.