Monday, August 30, 2010

It's not for pity's sake

A a few months ago in a post titled, "Why being adopted as an infant does not nullify adoption loss", I listed some examples of how being adopted affects my daily life, even in the most mundane, daily activities, whether shopping with my mom or boarding an airplane with one of my older brothers. More recently, I have shared a few examples in a series, "Growing up as a KAD," of what I experienced as a Korean-American adoptee growing up within an American- and Caucasian-centric community.

I want to clarify that I share such examples not to try to elicit pity or to try to demonstrate that I'm some kind of victim of a unique, unprecedented suffering (which is clearly not the case), but rather simply to exemplify exactly what I stated above (and in the original post): being adopted affects an adoptee's daily life beyond infancy and into adulthood--really for a lifetime.

The reason I'm making this seemingly redundant clarification is that some of the comments that ensued in the discussion following the original post seemed to indicate that particular readers were missing the point. Also, this is a topic that, much to my chagrin and exhaustion, many adoptive parents and the like continue to question and doubt or misunderstand and ignore. As Raina wrote, "There are people who are, at this very minute, talking about adoptees. They’re discussing whether we have a right to our opinions and emotions. Whether we should speak out or shut up. There are actually AP’s who are debating the pros and cons of listening to the voices of adult adoptees."

The fact that adoption affects our lives as adoptees from infancy through adulthood seems to face consistent questioning and skepticism--the validity of our emotions and experiences undergo a peculiar mix of scrutiny and dismissal--and therefore, requires ongoing clarification and explanation (which I find ridiculous and annoying, but nonetheless, necessary).

I think it came to the forefront of my mind again recently, because I myself am pregnant and will be holding my own infant child some time early next year. Experiencing pregnancy and anticipating motherhood emphasizes for me personally yet again that being adopted is a lifetime experience with lifetime consequences--and the fact that I was adopted as an infant certainly does not preclude me from experiencing these ongoing, daily consequences of being adopted. In fact, no matter the circumstances of any given adoptee's adoption, there are always long-term consequences. It's your choice whether you decide to acknowledge this truth.

Furthermore, even more poignant is the truth that although I was adopted as an infant, as I approach motherhood, I still have to recognize and manage the ways in which my experiences as an adoptee could potentially affect the way I will parent my child-to-be. Now, if that doesn't exemplify for you how profound and reaching the very real repercussions of being adopted are then I don't know what in the world will.

In a previous post, I briefly discussed some of my initial thoughts and emotions regarding the unique ways in which I am experiencing pregnancy as an adoptee. This is again, a clear example of how being adopted affects my life as a whole from infancy through adulthood.

It is such a detrimental and oppressive misconception that those of us adopted in infancy will somehow bypass the consequences of being adopted whether they be the ongoing grief and loss or the daily discrepancies and discriminations we face from those around us.

Understand this--I don't feel sorry for myself. When someone makes an ignorant comment or treats me differently, I don't obsess about that person, and I know full well that the person who interacted with me in such a way doesn't waste another second thinking about me once the interaction is done. But again. That's. Not. The point. I am not attempting to demonize any particular individual nor am I trying to build a case as to why my sob story is more "sobby" than yours.

I recall these examples truly and simply to help others understand why and how being adopted is a lifetime experience that comes with ongoing daily consequences that are not nullified simply because one was adopted as an infant (or otherwise) or because the adoptive parents are viewed as near saints. Whether a momentous life event like marriage or giving birth or a more mundane event like going to school or stopping by the grocery store, adoptees encounter consistent reminders of the fact that we are adopted and how that permanent status has changed our lives forever in both small and big ways--regardless of when or how our adoptions have taken place.

So, the next time you catch yourself thinking that those of us adopted as infants or adopted by the metaphorical equal of Mother Theresa herself (rest her soul) got the better end of the deal, because you think we won't experience the negative consequences or difficulties beyond infancy...

Please, take some time to think again...and again, as many times and as long as is needed, until it becomes second nature to catch yourself thinking that those of us adopted as infants (or otherwise) did not get the better end of the deal. But rather that we simply were the recipients of a deal over which we had no control, and although this is not unique to adoptees alone, we, along with the truth of our experiences, remain uniquely dismissed and criticized for our need to be acknowledged.

Nonetheless, we must ultimately learn to navigate and manage the complex and ongoing consequences of that deal, regardless of whether you or anyone else ever cares enough to choose to recognize the very truth that so many deny.


Mei Mei Journal said...

I have been mostly away from my computer these last few months. Congratulations on your pregnancy.:-)

I had not yet considered the thoughts and emotions that my two adopted daughters will most likely feel as they become parents. Pregnancy, birth and parenthood will likely bring a lot to the surface.

It will also bring a lot of joy.

Kerri said...

I have two daughters that were adopted. My first and younger daughter was adopted as an infant. My second and older daughter was adopted at almost 8 years of age. My older daughter has a loving family in Ethiopia that prepared her well for her relinquishment at the age of 7. In many ways, I think she will actually have a much easier time (not hasn't been up to this point...just easier) than my younger daughter because she can live confident with the knowledge of who she is, where she came from, why she was relinquished as told by her Ethiopian family, and the fact that her family loves her. My younger daughter won't have that and, even at 3, has already said she misses her mom in Guatemala. She has significant fears of being left and as I told her teacher, for some kids, it's an abstract fear but for my daughter it's a reality that's already happened to her once (being left with strangers - me - and not seeing her foster family again.) Most people really have no idea why my younger daughter has any "issues" at this point and assume I'm creating them all. Very frustrating.

Von said...

The repercussions of adoption roll on through life for us adoptees, whether adopters believe us or not.They don't have to live, it we do and the delusions of some around enough love and care preventing adoption syndrome are
unrealistic and denying.
Pregnancy, childbirth and parenting certainly do bring things to the surface and watchfulness is needed.One of the biggest issues, if you are not reunited, is the weight of relationship on your child if they are your only known blood relative.
Agree too about the misunderstanding some have when you tell your story, but then that happens with anyone who has been a victim.Many of us a not looking for sympathy, pity, anger, outrage etc just a serious hearing of the issues.We know, we live it and will live it all our doesn't go away.
I've already congratulated you on your pregancy and so pleased for you it's going well..very best of wishes.

Sandy said...

Thank you Melissa...I read Raina's post and it upset me and still continues to upset me - the automatic reaction that seems to happen far too often...and the desire to not see both instead...

*deflect by saying you know 2 adoptees who are just fine,

*dismiss by way of must have not had a good experience, or another variation,

*deny by saying it happened to a different generation or a different country of origin, etc, and they know better now...

But by their words I wonder if they do know better, I hope they do...

Once I became an adoptee, I became an adoptee for life and the fact I am adoptee is brought forward in so many different ways big and small, consistently over and over again - it never goes away - you are an adoptee for life.

The Hallowell 4 said...

I am so glad I found your blog. I do not want to be the adoptive parent that discounts the ongoing issues of adoption in my son. I've been searching for adult adoptee voices to help me understand the issues. I appreciate you sharing your experiences and thoughts. Definitly bookmarking you so I can learn more.

Melissa said...

Hallowell 4 - I'm glad you found my blog, too! ;) And I'm also glad that you are willing to open yourself up to adult adoptee voices. There are plenty of us who blog...if you check out the tab on my blog "More Blogs & Resources" you'll find a list of several other adult adoptee blogs...