Bitterness, Openness & The Adoption Triad

So I’m a researcher. I read a lot. Before making a major life choice/step I like to learn as much as I possibly can about the subject matter.

I knew (almost) everything about conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and newborns/infants that one could learn BEFORE we even started TTC.  I know more about the subject (except, obviously, for personal experience) than far too many moms I know, and/or have spoken to about the subject.

By the time we’d gotten to our appointment with our RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist), I was basically prepared for any inevitability of what our diagnosis would be, and how we could handle it. By the time we decided to stop ART and pursue adoption, I was already pretty darned prepared.

This habit tends to shock people a little bit. My brain is so over-filled with random information and trivia that it gets a little daunting. Part of this process is, for me, therapeutic. Knowledge is power, right? And after too long of feeling so out of control, there’s something calming and relaxing about feeling like I’m in control of at least one thing – my knowledge about something.

Anyhow, point being – I’ve been reading a lot of blogs recently. First it started with basic information blogs, like adoption.com, the AFABC’s website, Canada Adopts!, etc. And don’t even gets me started on the MCFD’s website… I’ve practically memorized the entire thing.  I quickly moved on from there, and now I’m reading a lot more personal blogs. It started with Carrie Goldman’s Portrait of an Adoption blog, from the Chicago Now website, and from there my obsession has blossomed. <sigh>

The thing that’s shocked me most, however, have been some of the adoptee/adoptee rights and birth/first/original parent blogs I’ve read. I guess I wasn’t prepared for such waves of bitterness. 

Bitterness of those who felt forced into surrendering babies. Anger from those who feel that more should be done to preserve family units by addressing poverty and social disparity issues, rather than ‘solving’ the problem through placing children with adoptive families who may have more financial/social means. Adoptees who feel like the system is broken and like they are victims of an unjust process. Discomfort of those who are in awkward open adoption arrangements.

Now I’m feeling a little panicked. Like there’s no option for success here. Many of the adoptees who express their discontent seem to say that they (concurrently) love, respect, and appreciate their adoptive families; and are bitter, frustrated, angry, etc., about the fact that they were disconnected with their birth/first/original families.  Seriously – this sounds like a lose-lose situation for the adoptive parents.

I’m also reading some blog posts about embracing openness when it’s difficult, like this one. The part of the post that freaks me out is this quote: “I understand that some would use any of the ample excuses at my disposal as a reason to close an adoption.   Run-ins with the police, active addiction, inappropriate gifts, uncomfortable situations, angry family members, criminal activities are all reasons we hear for closing up relationships.  My kids first parents live complicated, confusing, difficult lives.  That I do not deny. And I love them.” 

Seriously?!? Honestly, if my kids’ bio/first/birth family were constantly being arrested, actively addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, etc., there is NO WAY that (at this point could imagine that) I could feel comfortable continuing in openness – for the sake of my kids’ safety!

YIKES!

I understand, and respect, the importance of understanding one’s origins; getting a clear and open picture of the circumstances that led to one’s adoption, maintaining connections with safe and caring family members, etc. BUT, I honestly don’t understand the value of placing a child in that sort of environment – intentionally.

Then again, I also have to remember my “privilege.”

  • I grew up in a loving, stable, healthy nuclear family unit.
  • My parents are each other’s best friends – they love and LIKE each other.
  • I’ve never been hungry, never experienced poverty, or racism, etc.
  • I’ve always lived in (nothing fancy, but) comfortable suburban homes, in safe neighbourhoods.
  • I’ve never been abused; physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually.
  • I’ve always had a loving extended family – both through relationship, and through my extended church ‘family’

The list could go on… I’m certain that some of my shock at the idea of exposing children to abusive/dangerous situations comes from the fact that these sorts of things are ones I avoid. They’re ones I would never want for my children.

We live a pretty sheltered (naïve?) life here in suburbia.

Maybe I’m being selfish for hoping that we can give our children a good, happy, non-bitter, non-jaded life here. Maybe such a thing as a truly successful adoptive process doesn’t exist. Maybe it does and I should stop reading the angry blogs. Am I being greedy for hoping to have a family? Greedy to hope that my children won’t resent me for having adopted them in the first place? Maybe I haven’t researched this enough, and I’m not getting the full picture. Maybe I’m thinking this through and researching too much – working myself into a tizzy for nothing… I don’t know anymore.

Ugh.

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4 Comments

  1. I’ll be honest, I kind of cringe when people (especially when they link to me) call the adult adoptee and original mother (and even adoptive parent) blogs out there about adoption reform “angry.” I’m not an angry person. I know many, many of the bloggers you’re likely referring to, a lot of them in real life, and they are not “angry” people either. That’s one of the odd things about being adopted, you can be the most happy, successful, loving person in the universe but if you don’t think adoption is all that great–you’re “unhappy.” When people call us “bitter” it almost makes it sound as if the pain that is felt is not valid. But it is, it really is.

    Adoption is about being win-win for children, first, foremost, and always. Adoption is about giving homes to children who truly need them but it shouldn’t be on the condition that they love adoption, be exhuberant about it, and grateful for it for eternity. Children are born into a world full of adult problems that they are not responsible for but impact them nonetheless. No matter how much better someone’s life is because they are adopted, an adoption takes place because a loss occured. I wouldn’t have needed a new family unless I lost my first one. Losses are painful.

    The losses that lead to adoption are painful. However, adoption also inflicts needless loss such as taking away birth certificate access, cutting family ties, perpetuating harmful stigmas, and cultural losses. When you think about it, these things are unnecessary parts of adoption that have nothing to do with giving a child in need a home. I would ask others, instead of being dissappointed that adult adoptees do not appreciate that these things have happened to them in order to uphold adoption as this happy thing, why not help us make positive change instead? 🙂

    • Thanks for your feedback – I really appreciate your honesty and candor. I’ve been thinking about your comments and wanted to provide a thoughtful and respectful response.

      I would like to start off by saying that I’m working on identifying emotions more often – as part of developing a skill set of helping my future children in identifying, owning and processing their own emotions about the losses and struggles in their lives. Part of this process, for me, has been learning to describe an emotion without attaching judgement to the emotion itself. So for example, assessing what I’m feeling, giving it a name (“fear”, “anger,” “joy,” etc.), and then allowing myself permission to experience that emotion.

      As I’ve begun reading through a number of blogs from “the other side” of the adoption triad (for lack of a better way to define the experience), the words I used in the post were the best ones I could find to express *my perception* of the tone and expressions being shared.

      To be honest, it was an overwhelming thing… to read experiences of people (perhaps like yourself) who’ve been hurt by the whole ‘institute’ of adoption, and/or through the systems, organizations, agencies, and people involved in it. I don’t think that I described any person as being “bitter or “angry” as a person, but rather that my impression of what I read was that those folks are experiencing / have experienced those emotions. I don’t judge the emotion or the experience as being invalid – quite the opposite, actually. I was just honestly surprised and taken aback.

      Here’s my conundrum: It *feels* (from what I’ve read so far) like there aren’t a lot of options for success in this triad; like no matter how hard I work to help my future children be empowered, equipped, supported, etc., that I will end up having done the wrong thing and in the wrong way. It (again) *feels,* at first blush, like adoption is a bad idea – the perpetuation of selfish choices. This confuses me, since we’re trying to adopt through the foster care system here in Canada, and the message I’m receiving from this end is that there are waiting children who want/need/deserve permanent, safe, loving families.

      So again, I’m not trying to say that your (or anyone else’s) experience is invalid, or un-called for, but rather that I feel confused now; helpless to understand how to do it better? Or if it’s even ethically appropriate to adopt children at all! Frankly, the reason I linked your blog was not to speak negatively of you or it, but rather because you’re so articulate and such an effective advocate for yourself and others… I’m happy to be a part of the solution, but confused and a little panicked about what that would look like.

      Would the “better” option be to not adopt at all? And rather to solely remain a childless couple who advocate for system reform? Does it mean assuming the role of permanent baby-sitter and seeing ourselves as temporarily caring for the child of another family, in order to honour and preserve that original family unit? Does it mean exposing our future children to their original/first/birth parents when the reasons they were place into care were for their own protection as they were being abused (psychically, verbally, sexually, etc.)?

      I would – sincerely – appreciate your feedback and advice. Our intentions in pursuing foster care adoption partially stem from the sense that there were fewer ethical issues with this route than with private / international adoption… What should prospective adoptive parents be doing to ensure that they’re both protecting their children from harm, and also preserving their rights and advocating for the rights of the original family when that’s who was abusing/neglecting/etc them in the first place?

      Thanks, in advance! 🙂

      • Thank you for your thoughtful explanation. I understand what you intended much better now.

        Adoption as a whole certainly entails the perpetuation of selfish choices, as you put it so well. I live in the U.S. and adoptions here started out as a way to provide orphaned or children who became estranged from their parents because of illegitimacy, a home. Not to be an equal, most often to be companions and workers to those who adopted them. My adoptive grandmother was adopted during this time in the 1930’s. The “Orphan Trains” where children were shipped around by train and “put up” on what were basically auctioning blocks for adoption. When the “blank slate” theory came along in adoption in the 1930’s, it was used to market the adoption of young children and babies of the poor and of unwed mothers to people who wanted to add these children as members of their families but were afraid of the “bad blood” stigma. One infamous adoption worker even advertised babies as Christmas presents in her local newspapers. Not that foster care is perfect but this is when our private adoption system deviated to supporting an entire growing industry. One where some children receive new families through adoption. It is also one where some children lose their family because of adoption.

        Which is why it is vital for people to really stand to make change so the latter of the two stops occuring. This is one reason why we activist advocate for records access and transparency in the adoption process so that adoptive parents can have the right to demand the truth, demand to know the child’s origins, and know for sure that a child’s original family can’t be repaired or helped better in any other way. I think many adoptee advocates would ask prospective adoptive parents to get their hands on as much info as possible and be as informed as possible during the adoption process and cherish every bit of information they can get their hands on knowing that their child has a right to have it.

        There is a simultaneous need for children to both have homes and for huge changes to be made in adoption. What I think many adoptee activists want is not only for adoptive parents to demand the most ethical processes possible in adoption but to stick around after the adoption takes place and work with the rest of the community to make change. When adoption is solely or foremost about becoming a parent (not insinuating that this is the way I think you feel) and no one sticks around to make the changes that are needed after they’ve adopted, the same selfish system does perpetuate. We lack large numbers of adoptive parents as our allies in our causes and as audiences at our blogs. Adoptive parents are the ones in the adoption constellation with the most powerful voice and it hurts the adoptee community to be ignored. With everyone working together though, we can make a more ethical system.

        I write from the perspective of U.S. private domestic infant adoptee on my blog (as may many of the other bloggers you have been reading). Many of us advocate for the adoption or permanent guardianship of children in foster care. As I have understood it from friends who live in Canada, adoption policies are much more ethical there than they are here in the U.S.

        No matter how much an adoptee needed to be adopted or how awesome their adoptive parents are, there is the potential that they will still feel loss. I think it is too big of an expectation of adoptive parents to have the goal that their parenting was only worthwhile or effective if their child feels no adoption-related loss. The loss, not felt, paid attention to, or acknowledged by all adoptees (we’re all very different people) is valid and handled by each person in their own unique way. It’s vital to have good parents to help and assuage the pain–but pain being there or acknowledges doesn’t have to mean the parents didn’t do their job. And when you really need a home and a family, though being adopted still has challenges, it is not better to be left unadopted.

        Part of being sensitive and informed is doing what you’ve already done; looking up adoption blogs, especially by those of adult adoptees. There are some great books written by adult adoptees (“my bookshelf” on my blog lists some that I’ve read and enjoyed) that can help increase understanding. Two blogs you might like to check out written by foster alumni in Canada are http://www.nathaniel.ca/blog/ and http://sundaykoffron.blogspot.com/

        I hope some of this helped 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for your feedback – that was very helpful! It’s also helpful for me to understand more of the context and perspective from which many blogs are written as well, in order to “compare apples to apples” if you will.

    A few take-away’s from this, that strike pragmatic notes for me, are:

    1) Prepare for loss and grief… while we may not be the cause of the grief, we are part of the story, and need to learn and prepare to most effectively support our future children through that process – not simply as a short-term experience, but rather one which may have numerous iterations throughout their lifetimes. Don’t equate our future children’s grief & loss to our success as parents.

    2) Continue learning more about the adoptee/first parent perspective/experience, and how to support our future kids through whatever sort of processes they may need/want to pursue in relation to their original family connections. Don’t freak out and get defensive.

    3) Be a positive and valuable contributor to the adoption reform and adoption rights movement, as an adoptive parent, and champion improvements to, and ethical practices within, adoption systems. And in our case (local foster care adoption), continue to advocate locally for needs of those in the communities/programs/systems from which our future children will come.

    4) Keep (obsessively) reading from many difference perspectives, in order to have a broad and multi-faceted understanding of the challenges, joys, hurdles, and processes involved – with a mindset that this whole thing is for the kids, and not for anyone else.

    Sound about right?

    Again – appreciate your feedback. Thanks for helping me understand this all better. 🙂

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