Saturday, March 20, 2010

adoption: generally misunderstood

The persisting lack of knowledge and awareness regarding the issues that adoptees face continue to astound and confound me.

I was reminded recently how rampant and pervasive are the utter ignorance and incomprehension when it comes to the profound loss that adoptees experience.

My husband was speaking with a friend. We'll call him Clark.

Clark and my husband, Mike, happened to stumble into a conversation about a friend of Clark's. Basically, Clark's friend has a daughter in her early 20's, who Clark described as troubled and distant. Clark's friend was described as being a father who is removed and frustrated by his daughter's apparent disconnection and detachment.

Well, eventually it came up that Clark's friend's daughter is adopted. And not only is she adopted, but her [adoptive] Mom died recently and suddenly--only two years ago--in a car accident. (The first loss of her biological family is compounded by the loss of her adoptive Mom).

Of course, as Mike was listening to Clark describe the situation, Mike was startled by the lack of awareness and understanding and proceeded to try to explain to Clark how being adopted most likely accounts for much of the daughter's behavior.

Clark demonstrated difficulty grasping the concept, and in response to my husband's efforts to educate Clark, Clark asked, "Well, do you think it's just better for parents not tell their children at all that they're adopted?"

Inside, Mike is thinking, "!!!!!!!!" There seemed to be no acknowledgment of the double trauma experienced by Clark's friend's daughter as a result of being adopted along with the recent loss of her adoptive Mom.

Although frustrating and alarming, neither Mike nor I should have been surprised.

As much progress that has been made, we still have a long way to go.

It is estimated that there are anywhere from 6 to 8 million adoptees living in America. Sure it may only be a small percentage of the overall population but it's significant enough that most people know someone who is adopted, if not multiple persons who are adopted.

And yet, the adoption experience remains one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted issues even today. It is subject to repeated euphemism and often the general public thinks they understand when they really have no clue.

What other trauma or loss is treated in the same way? Divorce, death of a loved one, returning from war--all of these major life events are viewed appropriately and treated with matching sympathy and compassion.

Yet when it comes to the adoption experience, society ignores any acknowledgment of trauma to the adoptee. It's not simply frustrating, but it is detrimental and hurtful to all of those involved in the adoption triad.

When a woman experiences a miscarriage, generally, most understand the loss involved. (Although, certainly, there will always be people who say well-intentioned but utterly misguided things).

How great is the loss when a woman relinquishes the child she has born? How deep the grief when that child must spend his or her life having lost the first mother and even more so having no answers, no knowledge of what happened.

It is indescribable the frustration and angst I experience in response to the lack of respect and understanding for the situation that adoptees face.

I continue to encounter individuals who not only do not understand but make no effort even to acknowledge the simple fact that adoption involves a profound loss and the accompanying grief and sorrow, confusion and pain that such loss involves.

I hope with time, more and more people will be willing and open to acknowledge the inherent trauma that adoption involves.

And if you're reading this and you think that perhaps you're one of the folks who perhaps does not quite get it, but you're willing to try to at least attain a basic understanding, please keep trying.

And feel free to contact me any time. I am more than willing to help you understand. And I promise I will be patient and considerate--just as I would hope that you would be patient and considerate toward me.


The Byrd's Nest said...

I am aware that our daughter from South Korea suffers from trauma. The day we met her in the airport she screamed until she passed out. My heart broke in two. She has been with us for three years and we have worked so hard to help her with this separation from her birthmother.

This is an interesting post because I would say alot of her behavior and the behavior of our 5 yr. old daughter from China stems from being adopted children. Yes...some of it is just normal child behavioral problems but in my eyes most are from being adopted. We are always searching for new ways to help them. For instance, if Eun-Ji is in a room with alot of people she doesn't know she will start singing to herself or acting out (badly). It is as if she cannot control her surroundings and then she eventually loses control of herself and then if we don't get her out of the situation quick enough she will just disappear inside herself. So with that said, we try very hard not to put her into those situations at all, it is just too hard on her. With Lottie, our daughter from China, no one held her for the first 9 months of her life. She rocked herself to sleep and self soothed herself for months even after we adopted her. She is clingy and terrified of me leaving her. They both still sleep with me in the bed. With all of this said, it is shocking to me that people disregard that adoption affects all of these things in their lives and the way they handle stress or any other situation. To me, it has everything to do with it. Okay, I promise not to write any more "books" on your blog. I just find your point of view is often difficult to even have another adoptive parent that can understand the issues my girls have...okay that is an entirely different issue:)

Mila said...

I appreciate long comments! So no worries.

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read these posts. I am always refreshed when I encounter [adoptive] parents who are willing and open to grasping the profound effects that adoption has on adoptees.

Much of what you have shared about the behavior of your daughters are familiar to me. I was very much the same way when I was a child.

And I can still be very clingy and terrified of people leaving me [now, most of the time, it's transferred onto my poor but amazingly patient husband...], and I still experience incredibly powerful emotions that are often difficult for me to manage even though I'm in my mid-30's.

I'm just SO relieved that you recognize and understand this as normal and natural behavior and emotional characterization for your daughters. Kudos.

Keep in touch and thanks again for stopping by!