The powerful emotional link that binds families who grow up together often manifests itself in curious ways when adult adoptees meet their biological families. Yet as common as it is, few want to touch it because–well–incest. But this issue needs more awareness, and not only because according to recent reports it’s on the rise. Also because I believe that it’s a fertile ground for a particular type of abuse.
So going to meet his family, I knew I would be the square peg. To tell you the truth after 40 years, it’s not a big deal anymore. I have my partner, my children and I’m doing fine as the odd one out, thank you very much. I’ve even made a career out of it on the basis of–‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’. I don’t fit in, so instead I celebrate it. It’s much better that way.
I don’t remember them killing my baby because they put an IV in my arm and told me to count backwards from ten. And by the time I’d hit seven, I was asleep on the good stuff. But I knew from the soreness between my legs when I woke up that they’d done it. Been there. Up my vagina with speculums and nozzle headed vacuums. Sucking out the foetus that would have ruined my life.
There are babies in abusive situations. There are children for whom the alternative is neglect, maltreatment, foster care. Or even worse. Children who badly need care, love and a roof over their heads. It makes me want to scream. Rocks pounds in my ears when I face the reality that adoption is the best alternative we have. How have we arrived at such a point that for some mothers their own survival means abandoning their children? Or for some children their best chance of survival is to be taken from their mothers?
It’s a big ask to claim parentage of me. I’m outspoken about my mistakes and theirs. About the way I live my life. I’m highly critical of adoption. Resuming more contact would mean facing up to truths, dealing with emotions he prefers to let slide. But if there is one thing about adoption that I can see now, it is that it gives you the option of being a parent or not. Adoption is apparently not for life. It is only enforced by the willingness of the participants to accept the contract.
Agency was conspicuous by its absence in my upbringing. My adoptive mother neither trusted in me, nor in my agency and this might be regarded by many as wise. After all what can a child know about the consequences of their decisions?
My children do not count in his eyes as ‘proper’ because I did not grow up with our mother. Nor presumably, does the son of my step-sister, their half-sister who grew up with her mother.
The question of what a ‘real’ mother means, is increasingly relevant. What does it mean to be a mother? Who is the ‘real’ mother?
When I grew up and found my natural parents, there was of course no gold crown waiting for me. Just a realization that I was the rather ordinary product of a tawdry affair where responsibility for my presence was passed off to a childless married couple desperate for a child of ‘their own’. I was a possession.
An adopted child has already lost one mother. (S)he will most likely make a greater effort to diminish her own sense of self, and feed into the narcissist’s desires just in order to avoid being rejected by the second. It is a matter of survival.
Because it was courage that my mother showed in telling no-one for 21 years, and giving me up to strangers. For the sake of herself and for the sake of her family she did the hardest thing anyone can ask of a mother. Because even as her daughter, I was not part of their family and in the 1970s could never be a legitimate part of it.
The Ugly Duckling is about a cygnet who feels abused and isolated from his adopted Duck family. He eventually has a happy reunion as a transformed swan with his ‘natural’ Swan family. As an adoptee, when I read this story, it wasn’t the pain of the abuse or the despair of the outcast ‘duckling’ that resonated with me. It was the confusion he felt at believing for his whole life he was a duck, when in actual fact he was a swan. How do you know who you are?
My family was not one I was born to, it was one I made and continue to make on a daily basis. My family is a group of people who I trust and whose support I use to empower myself to grow in this world. I have relatives of course, but they are not who I consider my family.
Secrecy was the best choice. But being adopted whilst outwardly respectable, was only another word for disgraced bastard. And everyone knew it, even if they didn’t say it.
For those adoptees who lose their mother before the separation of the self occurs at around 2-3 years old, they will manifest a primal wound. A deep and lasting impact.
Worse still, it is a impact which is unacknowledged buried deep in the subconscious and thus remains unhealed…
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