FYI: An Adoptees Advice to Prospective Adoptive Parents
Hi mom, Hi dad! That's right, there but for time and
space ou could be my parents adoptive parents or birth
parents. Birth parentsand adoptive parents. B-arents and A-Parents.
Before parents and after parents. Before has no meaning without
after, after has no meaning without before. Time and space. You
cannot exist without each other. I couldnt find the words
as a child. Now I have the words to advise you, tell you what it's
like, tell you why I need to search, to help us resolve these issues
before they become problems.
So imagine, I arrived in your home helpless; in need
of your nurturing.
Lets get the tough stuff over with first: you are the
parent. I am not here to heal the pain of your infertility. You
must resolve the emotional baggage of infertility before you decide
to parent. Unresolved infertility may be a problem when adoptees
become fruitful at puberty. Unresolved infertility, leaves the whole
family grieving for the unrealized biological child; leaving me
to feel second best. Unresolved infertility puts adoptees in the
difficult situation of trying to be the perfect answer
to your infertility, while dealing with the imperfect
reality of being given away.
Tell me Im adopted, or you risk a terrible breach
of trust. Ive seen men in their fifties destroyed when, at
a parents funeral, some relative spilled the beans. Talking
about adoption will defuse its effect. I will ask more than once,
reflecting different needs at different ages. So get information,
meet my birth parents. Be honest but not critical, remember, I will
incorporate your interpretation of my birth parents into my interpretation
People will say I'm lucky to have been adopted by such
wonderful people; who knows what my fate may have been if you hadnt
taken me into your home! Note how this sets me up to be eternally
grateful to you. It's easy to fall into parental martyr syndrome
but you are not just parents you are adoptive parents. There
but for time and space who knows, maybe another family would have
suited me better. Asking for my gratitude puts us in opposition.
Remind those who would have our relationship based on guilt that
you too, are lucky to have found me.
Adoptees constantly wonder what could have been. My
life is the luck of the draw. I spent my childhood thinking: these
people could have been or could be my parents; this
could have been my home; those could have been my toys; I could
have had to wear that outfit!? One thing is not arbitrary I was
born to someone.
Adoptees believe in things we've never seen: birth parents
in the guise of guardian angels, fairy changelings, and storks who
deliver babies how else did we get here? We've never heard
the story of our quickening, our labor, our birth.
Adoptive parents compare themselves to birth parents,
but adoptees compare themselves to the unrealized biological child.
My parents told me they lost a child. I thought they went out and
actually lost the child somewhere. I felt guilty because I thought
if they found him, they might take me back, I didnt want that
they were my family.
We adoptees refer to ourselves as adaptees.
My natural laugh is a barking sound but I tried to imitate my adoptive
father's dry hissing laugh my whole life. I was thirty-seven when
I learned the origin of my barking laugh. I was at a birth family
reunion. My birth mother had not arrived yet. I laughed, the barking
laugh, and the relatives gathered. They thought I was her.
Adoptees procrastinate, are pack rats, and arent
good decision makers. We don't have the facts about our lives, we
dont know the significance of anything, so we put off until
we get the facts.
Excuse me if Im a little paranoid and indignant
about secrecy, I am the product of sealed records. A commodity passed
from one party to another with no say in the contract. The physician,
and his staff; the attorneys, and their staffs, the hospital staff,
the agencies, the staff at the court house where my adoption was
filed, and, of course, the staffs guarding my sealed original birth
certificate and records all know more about me than I know about
Excuse me for being angry. The non adopted can get their
original birth certificates. Mine is sealed from me. I must be satisfied
with the falsified document registering who I was after my adoption:
but I existed before that. The system makes me angry, but you mom
and dad will bear the brunt of my anger, because you are the closest
authority figures. What makes me angry is being treated differently
because Im adopted and the lack of control over these circumstances.
I promise you, about the time I reach puberty, I will
say the dreaded words, You are not my real parents.
This is not anger. It is insecurity. With puberty comes the challenge
of individuation. I must start rehearsing my independence. Ill
hurt and insult you to see how much I can count on you to be there
when the going gets rough. Convoluted? This is normal for teenagers,
but intensified by the adoption experience. Remember, the ultimate
achievement of parenting is obsolescence. Do you want me living
at home at thirty?
Moses, Oedipus, King Arthur, the Ugly Duckling, Superman
and Luke Skywalker all have something in common: they were all adopted.
They are also some of our cultures major self realization
archetypes: without the search there would have been no story. Society
sends adoptees the message to search. There is no society on earth
without religion. All of mankind is searching for the creator, isnt
it natural adoptees would too? I always wondered. Search is the
adoptees active part in the process of adoption. Usually its
the child bearing years, late twenties early thirties, when adoptees
actively search. I may have an intense desire to know just before
puberty. College years, late teens and early twenties I didnt
want to search I was too busy separating from my adoptive parents,
but if contacted let me make the decision. Please dont search
for my birth parents unless I ask you to, or unless there are real
problems you feel may have stemmed from my genetic history or an
experience I had before I joined our family.
The search isnt about you; the search is not a
search for parents. It has as much to do with you as my choice of
spouse or career. It is a search for my life for my self.
I want to know my story, who I look like, ethnic background, and
medical history. To meet the creator. and say, Look at me,
Im ok, I turned out all right, you made the right decision.
The adoptive parents role in an adoptees reunion? It is not
to voice your insecurities over your ability to parent, your job
is to be there for me. To give me the gift of trust. At one of the
most intense moments of my life, it is unfair and selfish to play
the wronged parent. What does it say about our relationship if I
search after you die? The most consistent outcome of adoption reunion
is the strengthening of the search supportive adoptive family.
Why be an adoptive parent? Because it makes a difference.
Children need homes and parents need children to create a family.
Mothers teach how to fold towels, grandmas recipes, to play
fair, and introduce us to literary classics; Dads, teach how to
drive, to handle conflict, favorite ball teams, and the best political
party. Ill sleep in your arms, play peek-a-boo, bring I
love you drawings to put on the refrigerator, alarm you with
my adolescent fashion sense, and ask for the car keys. Families
never stop growing and learning from each other.
Understanding teaches courage; courage teaches stability;
stability teaches trust; trust teaches acceptance; acceptance teaches
love; and love makes the human heart elastic enough to make adoption
less of a commodity transaction and more of an extension of family,
and that is an adoptees advice about good adoptive parenting.
What doesn't kill us, Makes us stronger.