Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Going Viral

Some of you who are dialed in to the adoptee rights movement or are in some other way involved in adoption stuff may have noticed the onslaught of FB pictures of adoptees searching for the mothers & families. While I’m happy that it has worked for some and it’s a great resource for those of us who live under the oppression of sealed records, it also saddens and angers me greatly. The fact that any of these men & women have to publicly beg for a tiny shred of information, all the while facing some very sharp criticism from well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) people is demeaning and dehumanizing. People like to drone on about “privacy” - but if adoptees had the right to access their own birth records, then that “privacy” (which is a myth, by the way) could be respected much more by not forcing adoptees to blast their information all over FB and the internet. What should be personal and yes, private, is now very public. But I don’t even want to get into the open records spiel. I want to get at the public perception of adoption and reunion and this romanticized image that people have of the whole ordeal. Everyone loves a warm and fuzzy happy reunion full of tears and hugs. They like to be voyeurs to something that is so fraught with emotion and get caught up in the happiness and joy of it all. But what they don’t see, what the television talk shows and newspaper stories and viral photos don’t tell you, is the incredible aftermath. Meeting your family and suddenly having your dreams of what could have been turn into the reality of what should have been can leave a person feeling devastated. The term “roller coaster” has been used to describe it, and it’s an apt description. The initial highs can be followed by some very deep and profound lows. Nobody who has not lived it can possibly understand the paradox of meeting your own family, but knowing you’ll never really be a true part of that family, because it’s impossible to make up for that lifetime of memories and shared experiences that truly make us “family.” It’s seeing parts of yourself reflected back in the features and actions and attitudes, for the first time in your life, and FINALLY understanding exactly who you are. It’s like coming home, but knowing you will never be able to stay. Because the push and the pull from other parts of your life make it impossible. Your adoptive family feels betrayed; your friends think you need to forget it and move on; your SO just wants the “old” you back, the one who wasn’t constantly obsessing over every tiny detail of every moment spent with your new-found relatives. The one who still had time for them and wasn’t so wrapped up in this new discovery. And then times goes on, things kind of even out, but distance makes it hard to develop a relationship and your own fears of abandonment force you to keep a comfortable distance. For me, the fact that my mother kicked me out of her life twice, really made me afraid. I thought, well, if my own mother can walk away from me, what’s to stop the rest of the family? And so we pull back. We distance ourselves to protect ourselves from the inevitable fallout that we feel certain is going to come. And this pull back is often misunderstood, seen as a lack of interest or maybe a rejection of them of sorts, but we are afraid – afraid to make our feelings known because all our lives, we have been expected to keep our feelings in check in the interest of not hurting our adoptive parents or upsetting someone. Because we are expendable; we are the second choice children, society is quick to remind us, we have no right to this life because our mothers could have taken us out of it via abortion and we’d better be good and grateful. It’s a hard thing to shake, even for the strongest of us. This is why records should be open (ok, ok, I brought up the records). This is why it’s so sad to see my fellow adoptees, my fellow human beings, resorting to these public displays of pleading which might very well pay off, but at what price? We should all be allowed to know the most basic information about ourselves…who we are, where we came from, who we were before our birth certificates were legally falsified and the originals locked away forever. And then you have the nay-sayers…the “you don’t know what you’re going to find, you might not like the outcome, I know a person who was adopted and had a bad experience and now has nothing to do with her birth family!” Really? Well good for your friend. I’m glad she knows. It is her right, and what happened after reunion is also her right. I often tell people (ok, I don’t, but I would LIKE to) that we can’t get closure from fantasies. We can’t come to terms with only our imagination. No matter what the truth is, good or bad, at least it can be DEALT with and processed. It is only through knowing the truth and, if it is indeed not pretty, being able to face it is the only thing that will allow us to heal and become stronger. Society recognizes the value of facing all sorts of problems and traumas…we know that to “bottle it up” is unhealthy, yet adopted people are expected to do just that. Bottle it up, get over it, ignore it, just stfu and be grateful. Really, it’s no wonder so many serial killers are adopted…we’re expected to somehow magically get over something without ever being allowed to talk about it, to process it, to explore our own feelings for the sake of those around us. Including complete strangers who think they need to give their opinion on something they know jack about. So what exactly is the point I’m trying to make…I don’t even know. Lord knows I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my own reunion, and I can say it’s been a mixture of both good and bad. But it’s mine and mine alone, and no matter what has happened, I’m glad I did it. I wish some things could have been different, I wish I had done some things better, but at least I KNOW and can have peace with that. I just hope that all my fellow adoptees get the same opportunity and wish that someday, they can all do it privately, in their own time, without having to get the approval of complete strangers or beg like children for a crumb of information. Let’s stop the inhumanity.

5 wisecracks:

Considerer said...

Thanks for sharing this. It's great to hear some insight from an adoptee's viewpoint.

I know I've only just rocked up here, but is there any chance you'd be willing to share some information (if you know?) - I'm trying to find out how adoptees experience open adoption, where they are still in contact with nmum and know her role, but are raised by their adoptive parents. You seem well connected to other adoptees - might I ask to be pointed in the right direction to ask this if you don't know anything about it?

Many thanks.

Lillie said...

Hi Considerer, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment! I always love to hear from my readers. :)

I was raised in a completely closed adoption, so I can't speak for anyone who was raised in an open one. I know there are a few adoptee groups on FB, maybe you could check with them? The vast majority of my adoptee peers were also in closed adoptions - since open adoption is a relatively recent thing, I think most of the adoptees from this type of situation will be much younger than this old bird. LOL

Considerer said...

Thank you - your comment has been very helpful. I might give FB a try, but hope I won't be seen as gatecrashing anything! I didn't realise that open adoption was a recent thing. My MIL and her brother were raised by a family 'down the road' in Ireland when her mother passed away in childbirth. Their parish priest organised for the local, childless couple to raise the twins and they always knew and (as I understand it) had contact with their nFather. I think this is the kind of 'open' I was thinking of...if there's any other definition!

Michele said...

I'm a closed era adoptee in reunion and everything you describe here has happened to me. No one can really understand our losses. It's been 2 years 2 months for me, and right now I have a little contact with Mom, and none with Dad. I'm very lucky to have one Aunt, my mother's youngest half sister who truly loves and understands my pain. I think of this bible passage sometimes, Forgive them father, for they know not what they do. I don't think our families actually see us as real human beings sometimes. If they did, how could they treat their own flesh and blood with such cruelty?

I've made mistakes as well, and said some thing I shouldn't have, but there seem to be no chance of forgiveness for me.

IRL I don't know any adoptees in reunion, it's only through the internet that I'm able to learn that I'm not alone anymore.

Lillie said...

Hi Michele! Thanks for your comment. No, you are NOT alone. It's just something that's not widely spoken about. I welcome you to stop by the the AAAFC forum - www.adultadoptees.org/forum and sign up. Lots and lots of fellow adoptees there, many in reunion, who totally get it. I know it has been my one source of sanity in this crazy world.

 
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