I am a new reader to your blog and am enjoying your posts. Thanks for sharing. I want to comment on this post because it's something I've been wondering about for a little while now. My husband and I are Korean-Americans (non-adoptees) who are in the process of adopting from Korea. I feel you have answered the post well from a TRA perspective (which is perfectly valid since that is your experience), but I still am trying to grasp what is the trauma in just adoption itself (without transracial or transcultural issues, etc.) assuming the child is placed in a loving, healthy home, the process was not corrupt (e.g. "black market" babies), and the relinquishment was intentional and permanent. I would appreciate if you shared your thoughts on this...
I am aware and am learning so much about the loss / primal wound and believe and acknowledge its reality. It is a profound trauma and I am not in denial of it. My question was based on your title of the post: "The sole trauma is the loss that occurs BEFORE adoption, but the practice of adoption itself causes no pain?" So, apart from the initial loss / relinquishment and assuming the conditions I listed previously occur in the adoption, is there still more trauma in adoption itself? I understand the child continues to suffer throughout his/her life because of the relinquishment and unanswered questions, but is the adoption in itself cause for more pain/trauma? In other words, let's say the same child was never adopted, remaining in foster care or orphanages (which, of course, has its own issues and complications), is he/she avoiding any trauma that would have occurred if he/she were adopted instead (given the conditions I listed previously)? If you feel that it's still answered in the other posts and resources listed, then I'll refer to that. Sorry if I sound like I'm being difficult. We are really trying to learn and do things right and in the best interest of our future child. We want to be prepared / understanding to ALL possible trauma that our child may be facing. Thanks!
What I would like to express is that ultimately,
the losses and trauma of relinquishment and subsequent adoption should not be viewed or treated as separate entities (rather they constitute a process as a whole), because for many adoptees, the losses and trauma of relinquishment and subsequent adoption are interconnected—they are inextricable from one another.
Even though my biological mother relinquished me, part of the reason she considered doing so was because adoption was made available to her as a viable option versus her extended family or kin caring for me or the government stepping up to provide social services to help support her. (For insight specifically on what unwed Korean mothers face even today, read this excerpt from the book, Dreaming a World: Korean Birth Mothers Tell Their Stories or this interview (pages 9-10) with Dr. Richard Boas, founder of KUMSN (Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network).
I think a lot of adoptive parents make this separation in their minds--that the initial decision a mother makes to relinquish her child has no connection to the subsequent adoption. Many AP’s and the like tend to compartmentalize these and deal with them as separate events.
But you have to keep in mind, no matter how YOU may view these situations as separate and apart from one another, many adoptees experience them as inherently linked.
The very existence of adoption practically and literally influences a woman’s decision, at times, to relinquish her child. Hence, for many adoptees, adoption is a part of what causes the trauma and loss.
I know that to many adoptive parents this is not only an offensive idea, but also an unfair and inaccurate assessment in their minds. Many AP’s become incensed, irritated, annoyed, etc. when this connection is drawn. I’m not saying you or anyone else has to necessarily agree with it, but I am saying that for many adoptees this is TRUTH.
There is always that lingering thought in the back of our minds…what if adoption by strangers had not been a viable option? Would my original mother have made the same choices if adoption had not been so readily and easily available? What role did social workers play in her decision? Was she coerced, pressured, made to feel like adoption was a better solution than trying to care for me herself? Was she made to feel incompetent, unworthy, and incapable so that adoption seemed the best thing for her child?
I think parents need to be willing to acknowledge that this is what is feels like, this is how many adoptees conceptualize their adoptions. Whether you agree or disagree is not the point—this is how it feels and is experienced by many adoptees.
My own Omma, after having 35+ years to deal with and be tormented by the consequences of her decision has shared with me that she would have made a different choice if she had been given the opportunity. (I realize that this is my and my Omma's experience and that not all situations or first mothers respond in this way, but nonetheless, my Omma's response is just as valid.)
There are two specific statements that she has made that stand out to me:
One, is that she says that had the services available today been available to her back then, she would have chosen to keep and raise me.
But the second, I believe the factor that was the more influential and telling, is the role her older sister played in the situation. Her older sister knew about the adoption services available in Korea. Her older sister is actually the one who physically took me to the agency/orphanage.
But the most telling is what my Omma herself stated: “She was like a god to me. I had to obey her.” My Omma clearly felt great pressure to relinquish me at the behest of her older sister. And her older sister applied such pressure, in part because of her knowledge of the adoption services available.
Of course, I realize that it was a storm of complex elements from social and cultural stigmas to economic and political issues that influenced my Omma's decision. But to deny the significant role and influence of the prevalence of adoption services on families in duress at that time (much to the neglect of family support services) would be dishonest and narrow-minded.
In my mind it is hard to separate the connection between the decision my Omma made and the availability of adoption as an option. It is hard for me to honestly say that the availability of adoption did not at least in part influence my Omma's decision to relinquish me. Also, in addition to her older sister's pressure, who knows what kind of guidance or counsel the social workers gave to my Omma.
Now, of course, I realize, that it is complicated. Believe me, I know. Trust me, by the very nature of the life I must live, I never forget that it is complicated. Korean culture in particular is steeped in old Confucian philosophy even still today (despite that it claims to be a primarily Christian nation).
Obviously, the reader who asked the above questions is a Korean-American, so she has a different point of reference and experience than do I as an outsider. But in my experience as a Korean adoptee, Korean culture creates a very unique dynamic with adoption, and one that is hard to reconcile. Even though Korea has one of the top ranking economies, it still sends so many of its children overseas. This is clearly not only an economic issue but also a sociocultural issue. I believe that with Korean adoptions specifically, the availability of international adoption is detrimental and highly influential due to the sociocultural stigmas and pressures that still persist today.
Now the relevant reader being Korean-American changes the dynamic some, of course, and hopefully she and her husband are fluent enough in the Korean language and culture to be capable of not only exposing but preparing their child for a more complete experience of Korean culture--the good, the bad, and the ugly. But, it will be interesting to see how their child grows up to conceptualize his or her adoption one day.
Adoption certainly seems a better fate than an orphanage or foster care, but it is hard to separate the influence that the availability of adoption has on the decisions that these mothers and families make to relinquish their children, particularly when dealing with international adoptions, and specifically Korean adoptions.
For many adoptees, adoption equates to being taken from one’s original family and biological origins no matter how you may conceptualize it in your own mind. As an adoptive parent, you may view yourself as the one who is intervening and rescuing the child from life in an institution or a life of foster care. But you must be willing to accept that to some, adoption is equivalent to being taken from one’s family and origins.
You may be able to separate the two, and conceptualize that the relinquishment happened apart from and before the adoption, but for many the two are not separate, bifurcated incidents—they are the same thing.
I know many AP’s do not see it this way and that many find this an accusatory misrepresentation of the role of adoption. And I can understand that. Fair enough. Everyone is entitled to draw their own conclusions. But you’ve got to understand that no matter what you decide, there are those adoptess who will always feel this way—will always feel that adoption robbed them of their families, their lives, their identities, EVERYTHING.
To assign wrong to this experience, to condemn it, to label it as angry, bitter, and ungrateful is neither helpful nor just.
If that’s the way particular adoptees’ experiences play out for them—if their experiences teach them that adoption stole away from them their families and lives, then those experiences are just as valid as the adoptees whose experiences lead them to believe that adoption saved their lives.
In the case of adoptee experiences, we must resist assigning right or wrong, but rather learn to accept the validity of each adoptee’s experience and journey. It is what it is.
Hence, for some adoptees, adoption IS the trauma. It is what caused them to lose their families and their lives. It is what heavily or even perhaps primarily influenced their mothers' decisions to relinquish them. It is the very existence of adoption that led to the situations that they currently face. It is the cause of their grief and sorrow.
You may not feel this way or see it this way, but at least be willing to try to understand why and how it could feel this way and be this way for other adoptees. It is their reality and if you truly want to love the adoptees you know or the ones you call your sons and daughters, please be willing to acknowledge this.
It may not be your truth or experience, but that does not somehow invalidate that it is someone else’s truth and experience.
Also, keep in mind that just because you think you know the situation does not necessarily mean you know the truth about the situation.
Particularly in Korean adoptions, the level of openness and honesty in record keeping may have improved somewhat in more recent years, but there is still much room for reform and improvement. It seems that every adoptee that has searched discovers some giant gaping hole or oversight in his or her adoption file. It certainly was the case in my situation. There is often so much background and history omitted whether purposely or inadvertently.
Even if full disclosure seems to be the case, you can’t assume that you therefore know everything about the situation.
This applies simply because, again, it can create a false sense of resolution or comfort for the AP that adoption and the preceding relinquishment are separate entities and one did not influence the other.
But again, for the adoptee, the two may still remain inextricably tied and indubitably related.
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Okay, with all that said, I would also like to note that all the above addresses adoption primarily from the adoptee's experience and perspective. Although I alluded somewhat to the experience of my first mother, my Korean mother--my Omma--I did not go into great detail about how adoption affects first mothers--the trauma, grief, and loss that they experience.
Again, I think the temptation for AP's and PAP's is to separate the two--you may view relinquishment and the subsequent adoption as individual, divergent entities. But again, this is not always the case for not only many adoptees but for many first mothers.
Rather than trying to put it in my words, particularly because I am not a first mother, I instead suggest that you read the following blog post, We Bleed Too, by a first mother at her blog, Adoption Truth. Also, you can read another blog post at Adoption Critique by another first mother, Dear Incubator.
It's important and vital to recognize and consider the way that adoption also affects first mothers, particularly because their experiences are so often neglected and dismissed, it seems, even more so than those of adoptees.
Adoption causes trauma and hurtful stereotypes not only for the adoptees involved, but also for the mothers who spend the rest of their lives wondering, hurting, aching...
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Again, fellow adoptees, first mothers, and anyone else who would like to add their insight, please do not hesitate to do so.
I know what I have expressed is only my perspective and hence only scratches the surface. The more insight and feedback, the better.
I would also ask that you please be candid yet considerate in your responses--the reader who posed the above questions did so sincerely and humbly with a genuine interest and desire to try to educate and inform herself more thoroughly and honestly.
Even as she stated, she is not trying to be difficult but rather,
"We are really trying to learn and do things right and in the best interest of our future child. We want to be prepared / understanding to ALL possible trauma that our child may be facing."