Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A reader asks, "Does adoption itself cause trauma?"


[Just a note, even if you don't read this entire post, please at least read what's in bold & color & please read the feedback provided by various readers in the comments section. The insights offered are incredibly valuable in answering the posed question, "Does adoption itself cause trauma?"]


Woah.

I am uber extra emotional these days. Duh--I suppose, being pregnant and in the last 10 weeks of the process give me an acceptable excuse.

I constantly feel both on the verge of joyful laughter and ceaseless tears.

So, as I try to answer a question posed to me by a prospective adoptive parent, bear with me. I think my filter is currently clogged and clouded with hormones. (Or well, I suppose I could be using that simply as an excuse to be obnoxious and scattered.)

A reader recently posted the following inquiry in the comments section of a previous post I wrote ("The sole trauma is the loss that occurs BEFORE adoption, but the practice of adoption itself causes no pain?"):

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!

* * *

First of all, I would love to hear feedback and insight from other adult adoptees and the like regarding the above inquiry. My opinion is certainly only one of many, and I hope that others will comment and offer their perspective.

* * *

[Setting aside the issues that come with transracial adoption, which I have previously discussed in the initial post on which the reader commented as well as in other posts...]

Generally-speaking, being adopted provides more stability than growing up in an institution or foster care (of course, why children end up in institutions in the first place is a whole other issue that I and other adoptees have addressed in previous posts).

But adoption, in and of itself, still brings its own set of consequences.

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.

* * *

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...

* * *

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."



23 comments:

Bobbi Jo said...

As an adoptive parent, I saw confusion, distress and panic in both of my children as they were handed to me. I would have to say that the transition from the only place you know in life (whether orphanage or foster family) into a new family...no matter how loving and fantastic is traumatic! Not even analyzing all of the other issues mentioned here, yes, adoption itself is traumatic.

EVERYTHING our children knew was completely up-ended and changed. As an adult, this would be totally unsettling and I have to imagine the same is true even for a infant.

Raina said...

"I constantly feel both on the verge of joyful laughter and ceaseless tears."

Ha! Welcome to motherhood!

Haven't had time to read the rest of the post, will go back later when I'm not, ahem, working.

JaeRan said...

I would agree with Bobbi Jo, as a Korean adoptee myself and having worked in adoptions in the U.S.

There are many layers and levels of trauma, so in addition to the circumstances that led to the relinquishment or abandonment, there is the actual placement that is likely to be traumatic for the child. Any major transition for a child - especially one that is pre-verbal and has no way to express their distress - is difficult. As Bobbi Jo stated so well, as an adult moving to a new country, with a new language, and living with new people with new smells and new homes and new voices - all of that is potentially traumatic.

Maybe for some the term "trauma" is the stickler - it is definitely a difficult adjustment and causes cognitive dissonance for anyone, no matter what their age. Given that everyone has a different personality, temperment and past experiences that inform the way they process information and new experiences, for some individuals this transition may indeed be traumatic.

JaeRan said...

I also wanted to leave two recommended books about this:

Highly recommend Vera Fahlberg's book, A Child's Journey Through Placement - takes a developmental lens http://www.amazon.com/Childs-Journey-Through-Placement/dp/0944934110

Also Pauline Boss's work on Ambiguous Loss http://www.amazon.com/Ambiguous-Loss-Learning-Unresolved-Grief/dp/0674003810/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290016549&sr=1-1

Jessica said...

Thanks for your insight Melissa. This idea:
"The very existence of adoption practically and literally influences a woman’s decision, at times, to relinquish her child",
I didn't understand at the beginning of our process. I now understand it more deeply as you and others express these ideas.

Best of luck as you approach your little one!

Amy said...

Agree with everything you said. Just so you know where I'm coming from, I'm an adoptee, adopted at 7 weeks - look *just* like my adoptive family (European).

In addition to what you said in your post, the traumas for me in adoption have been: 1. The whole "pretend" game --having to for the most part deny the truth of who I am to play the part of my APs "real daughter" - this has led to a real loss of who I am. I'm empty, because I was never allowed to be ME and so never formed a ME. I don't think it's the same in foster/orphanages, so it's a problem of the *adoption*. And 2. Becoming a total control freak because I always had to stay on my toes in pleasing my APs, for fear they would "give me up" like my first mom did. I guess I feel this would be different in a child in foster/orphanages only because they don't have so much to loose (sad in itself.)

I think I had a #3, but I can't remember! And I can't even blame pregnancy hormones anymore, lol.

Melissa said...

Man! This is great feedback & insight. Thank you so much, all of you, for offering your insight.

And thank you, Jae Ran, for the book recommendations. Awesome.

Also, Amy, thank you for your openness & insight, very helpful.

I just sent an email to the reader who originally asked the question...

I hope more folks leave their feedback. It's all so helpful.

Alicia said...

Adoption causes an additional trauma, after all the child feels he has been abandoned another time... Even if he was in an orphanage, at some point he felt that the people there were his "family" and then he is "abandoned" again to be placed with another family. The only way to avoid the adoption trauma is not to be placed for adoption in the first place, but as you already know, that's quite complicated.
I'm an AP, and one of my children went at least through two different orphanages so he suffered 3 abandonments and I'm very aware the damage this has done.

Von said...

No-one has a crystal ball to predict the future for adopters and every adoption and adoptee is different.In my experience we all suffer the trauma of being taken from our mothers even if we say we don't remember.For many of us adoption is a trauma too for a multitude of reasons, some apply to some not to others.Your questioner needs to start reading around, it's much to big for a comment on a blog.

Sona said...

i think the adoption itself is traumatic as well; just knowing you are in your family because your family couldn't keep you, then trying to navigate life with that pain, trying to fit into your new family, hearing how you do or don't look related, always knowing that your face and features are not reflected in theirs, knowing there is no shared blood that courses through their veins, yet are forced to fit in anyway whether you do or not, with the onus on the child to adapt, living with the fear of abandonment again by your new family if you don't adapt well, the pressure from society to be grateful, always being told or implied how lucky you are for being adopted; the guilt of not feeling it or the disdain for being made to feel it, the glaring loss of your family heritage and line, the lack of true freedom to grieve the losses...it is compounded loss, layer upon layer that all adds up.

Sandy said...

Domestic adoptee here...

I have seen the thought process you speak of that the relinquishment is a separate event and the adoption another event...

It isn't separate - especially when you consider an agency involvement.

I was surrendered to the courts and then the courts found a family for me who petitioned to adopt me...without the surrender the courts would not have found a family and the family would not have petitioned to adopt me - therefore it is linked by me the adoptee.

And even if you want to view it as separate events. The act of adoption forever seals the surrender or abandonment - no do overs, no rejoining of the family - once the ink is dry on the papers...

Margie said...

Adoptive parent here. I saw the same distress that Bobbi Jo describes when our first child joined us at six months; for whatever reason, this was less visible in our second child's arrival at four months.

What I am finding now that my kids are in young adulthood is that they are encountering the day-to-day "fallout" (can't think of a better word at the moment) of adoption firsthand, and it is making them more aware of adoption's impact. Our son, for example, is particularly frustrated at the lack of medical knowledge.

Although I have always been aware of the losses, somehow watching my kids navigate the world as an adoptee has made me more aware of just how egregious it is for them to be denied this basic information. And that, of course, magnifies the loss of family even more.

Melissa, I love your analysis of these issues. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

Soo said...

This is a great post. I would agree that adoption can and does cause trauma. For me, this was hard to grasp at first because I was adopted as a baby, but I'm positive that babies can experience trauma! I spent the first roughly six months of my life in the care of the same foster mother (whom I met later in life and can only describe as completely warm and nurturing). Once my adoption was finalized, however, that stabilization I had gotten used to changed completely and irreversibly. Such a drastic change would inevitably cause distress. I sometimes encounter immigrant and refugee clients at my current internship and feel this twinge of shared pain with them. We all left the only places we were ever accustomed to, many of us not having a choice or even a chance to say goodbye. And now, years later, I can acknowledge that my life is good and that I have a loving family, but there are still losses as a result of that initial trauma which I am always learning to manage.

Reena said...

This blog is always so thoughtful—offering so much to think about.

I am an amom to two daughters adopted from China. I have to say that yes, I felt that the act of adopting each of our daughters did cause trauma—more so for our youngest than our oldest. Our oldest lived her first 16-months (or most of it) in an orphanage—a good orphanage, but still an orphanage.

She had bonded with a favorite Ayi (what the Nannies were called). She missed her Ayi but also showed a shy fondness for me from the start.

She had never been outside of the orphanage complex until the day she was brought to us for adoption, nor had she had never seen a man before that day. She was exhausted from the trip and cried if DH even looked at her.

Our youngest daughter had lived in a wonderful foster family who clearly adored and loved her. She was just under 2-years when we adopted her and had lived with her foster family from the age of 5-months to the day they brought her to the orphanage for her adoption. It was heartbreaking.

China has rules about how the children move from one family to the next. There is no opportunity for getting to know each other—the workers take the child and separate the families quickly. She screamed, kicked, cried.

She was clearly traumatized and we felt like we were abducting her. We questioned if we were doing the right thing to adopt her.

She accepted or seemed to accept DH from the start—at her age she needed to have someone. She wanted very little to do with me and that lasted until we were home from China. It wasn’t until we were home and DH returned to work that our youngest would accept care from me and a few months after that before she started to interact with me if she had DH as another option.

We did manage to meet with the foster family while we were in China. They are wonderful—WONDERFUL caring people with whom we have maintained frequent contact and plan to continue the relationship.

They told us they could not adopt DD because they had an adult daughter—no longer living in the home and a few years prior they had adopted their son whom they had fostered and the One Child Policy in China would not allow them to adopt another child.

They indicated their biggest hope was that the family adopting her would be willing to stay in touch with them, for which we are more than happy to have and maintain this relationship.

In terms of adoption causing adoptees to lose their families and their lives—I think this is true for some adoptions, but not all. Children, primarily girls, are available for adoption in China because of the One Child Policy and because of other land allotment policies and social norms that instills a ‘need’ for sons. I, personally, do not believe that adoption has an impact on the decisions leading to the surrender/abandonment of babies and children in China. I think for China adoptions, governmental policies governing family planning is the primary reason.

Other countries seem to have ‘mechanisms’ in place. I am aware that currently Korea tends to have ‘homes’ where unmarried and pregnant women can live and be supported until the birth of their child. I think it creates a situation in which a First Mom who once living in this setting, and especially a woman who is scared and young, will feel as though she has no option but to surrender her baby upon birth.

Sorry this got kind of long.

Amy said...

These great comments made me think of my #3,4,and 5.:)

#3 - lack of medical knowledge. We have 5 kids (my biological) and for every one of their many appointments I always have to say "don't know genetics on my side, I'm adopted." Plus, they all have issues - allergies, learning disabilities, etc, so not only are there more visits but more guilt and more "stabs" when I can't even give info to help.

#4 - somewhat related. Having kids now and realizing that they are in no way related to my adoptive parents. My adoptive parents "act" as grandparents, but I wonder if its the same, just like growing up as an adoptee I felt second rate.

#5 - feeling guilty about my adoptive moms inability to have more biological children, all wrapped up in feeling second rate because I know they would have rather had "their own" (like most people). I know in no way was it my fault, but still - for me to have a home there was only because they had to suffer that pain. And now that we have a large family, I feel like I'm rubbing it in her face. (which we most decidedly ARE NOT, we are just Catholic and think large families are a blessing)

Kris said...

I am an AP and although I know you are mainly looking for adoptee and first mom repsonders, I can echo what Bobbie Jo said. My daughter was adopted at 14 months from Russia. Her orphanage was not a pleasant place - overcrowded, very little if any individual attention, little food, etc. She was malnourshed, unusually pale, bruised and had never had the opportunity to eat solid food or learn to walk. However, despite all that, when we brought her home, "traumatized" is definitely the word I would use to describe how she reacted. She was inconsolable and miserable. For a while the only thing that would soothe her was the Russian language channel on TV. She was desperate for my attention and would physically attack my other children when I showed them affection or attention. I say all this not to scare anyone or to insinuate something bad about my daughter, but simply because it was that way and it was brought on by her adoption - clearly a traumatic event in her life. Although it pains me to say this (and my daughter at 6 is happy and healthy and does not have continuing behavior issues), I would not have adopted if I knew then what I know now. I love her to pieces and on the surface I know it sounds horrific to say that (and I in no way mean I want to disrupt the adoption - that's not what that statement is about). I say it not as a reflection on her at all (she is an unusually loving, joyful little girl and I can't imagine my life without her), but because I am not at all sure adoption was the best thing for her. Russia is not a third world country and in my opinion could do much better by its children. However, because international adoption is an option for them right now, there is little incentive to do so. I feel partly responsible for that since we did contribute to the economy of international adoption. Does this make sense? I would never tell someone NOT to adopt. But go into it with eyes wide open ready to take responsibilty for your actions. I was hopelessly naive.

I am hesitant to post this because I in no way want anyone to think I have any lesser feelings for my adopted daughter than my bio kids. That is not it at all. The difference is my daughter had a homeland, a culture, a life, and even a family in Russia. That was all taken from her when we adopted her. My bio kids still have all that. Was adoption in her best interest? This is the question that is so hard for me to think about. It will be for her to decide.

Andrea said...

It's hard for us (adoptive parents) to accept the fact that, by virtue if the fact that we adopted at all, we are part of the problem wrt children being separated from their parents. Unfortunately, until we own this (individually and as a community), we won't fully be able to support family preservation, and we need to.

Susie said...

Melissa,
As a first mom, I cannot tell you how much it means to me that you recognize and honor my pain and loss.

Our voices ARE often ignored, belittled. After all, we "chose" adoption. We, ourselves, by choosing adoption, admitted we were not "good enough".

Before giving our children up for adoption, we are looked at as selfless, caring & loving. Once our children are no longer legally ours, we become someone to fear.

Our children's parents fear having to share "their" child with us. Yet we were expected to give our child up for others to become parents ~ because we were "less than".

Also, I have to say as a first mom ~ it saddens me to read how adoption effects adoptees. Because I believed that adoption was only wonderful for the children. I didn't know the truth of the effects of being given up. I unknowingly fed into the adoption industries lies.

This is one of the reasons I blog. To tell my truth of the effects of adoption on my life. To be the voice of truth for someone else. The voice I did not have when I was choosing adoption.

This is an excellent post, as usual. Thanks for acknowledging our loss...

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for this post and comments. My husband and I are looking into adoption, and no one at our agency has ever expressed this point of view of the child. I was told that an adopted child needs to mourn the loss of the family he or she had, but no one ever said that the act of adoption itself is considered by the child as part of that loss - it was as if the relinquishment alone was what the child was mourning. My question is, how do you know when the child is experiencing trauma that he or she may be able move beyond (note that I didn't say "overcome") versus Reactive Attachment Disorder? At what point did you settle into something resembling a normal family life?

Again, many, many thanks.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for having to share as Anon; I don't blog and have no website or affilation to share.

But I am an adult adoptee and would like to add my thoughts to the collective.

For me, adoption did not create the trauma; the trauma already existed.

I was adopted from Kazakhstan at an older age. The conditions at my orphanage were....horrendous. If you have read the book "The Lord of Flies", then you can better understand the day to day hell that myself and the other children faced.

Were the caregivers compassionate? Yes. Did we take solace in one another and find friendships? Of course.

But every single day was a struggle.

I was abandoned. This I know through a search I initiated with support from my adoptive family to find my biological family.

Initially my birth mother ( a term of my own choosing) told me she was forced to surrender myself and other offspring; next I was told she placed me in the Orphanage but only for temporary care; that my adoption was not planned or desired.

Eventually she told me the truth. She simply didn't wish to parent. She drank copious amounts of alchohol during each of her pregnancies and refused offers of help from extended family.

It was awful to hear this from her, but it was perhaps the only trace of honest background from her I received the entire time of our "reunion".

So for me? The trauma happened long before adoption came into my life. Does adoption itself come with extra baggage? Of course. Its lifelong But given a fate of being turned out at 16 in a land that turned its collective back on me, penniless, without ties, family or job skills.....

Well for me....that would have been traumatic. Every day spent in the institution was traumatic.

Some of you didn't live 9 years actually awaiting a true family...for love.acceptance..a full belly...personal items to call your own....positive attentions.....to have your birthday celebrated.....and much more. If you had and with all due respect to each individual and their pain( and I do believe its more than valid)....., you might define your trauma in a different way too.

Melissa said...

Anon, thanks for leaving your insight...what you share makes sense and is completely valid, of course.

And that's one of the main points I try to emphasize on this blog--that EACH adoptee's experience and viewpoint is unique AND valid.

We all come from different places and backgrounds. We each have our own stories--each with its own complexities & realities.

There are things that I have learned since reunion that have been sobering, startling & heartbreaking...and have forced me to face realities about my own adoption that I never knew existed...(I have not really blogged about them fully here for privacy's sake & because I'm still processsing it all...)

Because the reader who originally asked the question is specifically considering adopting from Korea (where I was adopted from), that was the main focus of this post, and obviously I have come to certain conclusions with specific biases based on my own personal experiences & knowledge.

But, of course, your experiences & circumstances are definitely your own, and it makes sense that you feel the way that you do. I know that there are other adoptees who would share similar sentiments and thoughts.

Hence, each story, each journey is a valid part of the collective adoptee experience. Again, thank you for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

"Some of you didn't live 9 years actually awaiting a true family...If you had and with all due respect to each individual and their pain( and I do believe its more than valid)....you might define your trauma in a different way too."

I agree with you wholeheartedly.

I spent years with a mother who loved me and cared for me. She was poor and had some bad circumstances in her life. She would have chosen to keep me if there was any way that she could have. When I came here I was expected to forget her completely, I was expected to never talk of the past or how much I missed her and loved her. So if you had experienced what I had Anon, you would define trauma in a different way, too. Imagaine being taken from the adoptive family that you had bonded with a few years after you came because suddenly they were too poor to take care of you and no one bothered to help them out. If you loved your family, wouldn't you be taken from them be a trauma?

I agree with Melissa, we all have different experiences and have to respect that. Unfortunately, Anon, the difference is that there are folks who are ready to take the story of your traumatic experience and use it to "prove" how adoptees like me didn't really suffer or experience any trauma. You might respect the pain and trauma I went through, but there are plenty of folks out there who tell me I'm lucky and should be grateful.

My mother was not an alcoholic who unfortunately let her addiction take over her life. No, my mother loved me with all her heart, my mother took care of me, even under the tough circumstances she lived in. My mother was and is a compassionate and nurturing mother. To be taken from her was hell, it was like someone carved out a piece of my flesh, and for her to lose me, it was likewise, as if someone had carved out a piece of her flesh.

That was my trauma. And I had to grow up hearing how lucky I was. To keep it all inside, to have to cry silently in my bed at night for years, to have question after question each day and never be able to verbalize them, to not know where she was or if I'd ever see her again--yeah, that was another kind of hell, too.

And this is not to take away the pain you experienced because your life was very different from mine and obviously you didn't experience what I did, but if you had experienced what I did, you might define trauma differently, too.

Melissa said...

Anonymous, thank you also for sharing so openly and honestly. I can also relate very well to your experience and apprehension that others often use the stories of some adoptees to discredit or dismiss the stories of other adoptees...

I wish folks would just accept that each story connects with others to form a collective and diverse narrative...