Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Adoption loss is a myth": Why I take it personally

I am realizing more and more that the topic of adoption, and all the practices and perspectives that come with it, really can divide.

It is such a potentially divisive and polarizing issue among families and friends, which of course, is a fact that I find unfortunate and emotionally wrenching. When stability and unity could not be more crucial for an adoptee, the adoptee instead finds him or herself caught in the midst of a family and community confused and divided over what is true and best for the adoptee. (Despite the fact that, in the mean time, a growing number of adult adoptees continue to give voice to their experiences and perspectives.)

I find myself consistently having to persevere to not avoid or withdraw from those who I experience as insensitive toward or uninterested in trying to understand. The amount of hurt and devastation I feel when someone invalidates or diminishes from the very real pain and hardship I have experienced as an adoptee, makes me want to turn into a wall and never feel again.

I think part of the reason I have such a hard time when I encounter people who do not acknowledge the losses of being adopted and all the grief and pain that inherently accompany such losses is that I take it personally.

It’s not easy, you know, putting your heart out there. Discussing the difficulties I have encountered as an adoptee is not necessarily what I’d describe as a fun and heart-warming experience, especially when I encounter folks who seem to consider my experience an anomalous or unfair representation of the adoptee experience.

I take it personally, because it’s as though their refusal to acknowledge the reality of the trauma adoptees have experienced is a refusal to acknowledge the truth of the experience of all the adult adoptees that have been brave enough and vulnerable enough to shed light upon the otherwise neglected hardships of being adopted.

It’s almost as though these people are calling me, and my fellow adoptees, liars.

It's almost as though they mean to say that the lives we adult adoptees have lived, and continue to live, are nothing but myths and make-believe stories.

With the abundance of adult adoptee blogs not to mention the myriad of resources available that educate and address the losses and unique issues faced by adoptees, I find it almost insulting and certainly patronizing when folks, and in particular adoptive parents and family members, choose to turn a blind eye and believe their own ideas over what is actually true.

And it’s not as though I didn’t once think like some of these adoptive parents or the general public. If you had spoken with my fifteen year old self, or even ten years later had a conversation with my twenty-five year old self, you would have walked away thinking that I had no desire whatsoever to know my biological parents, and even more so that being adopted had caused me no harm or issue.

Despite what you may think, I did not always think the way that I do now. And the way I think now is not because I’m an apple that went rotten. Really, it's quite the opposite--it's that I finally reached maturation.

I grew up—literally. This means my brain metamorphosed and developed dramatically, and hence my capacity to understand and process complex human thought and emotion eventually developed with it.

As I have mentioned before, the capacity of a ten-year old versus a thirty-year old to process the implications of his or her adoption are literally developmentally and physiologically different.

Although the capacity increases with each year of development, the maturity to process it all may take years to develop.

Albeit later than sooner, I did finally allow myself to think what had seemed unthinkable to me before. I allowed myself to feel what I had once believed was untouchable. I allowed what was buried to be excavated and revealed--with all its glory, and well, all its crud.

And as I inspected and examined all that emerged, I also began to realize that I was not crazy for feeling and thinking all that I was feeling and thinking. I began to see that I had not conjured up these thoughts and emotions from some imaginary place. They had always been within me, yet hidden and latent like the viscous and deep contents of a dormant volcano.

My life began to make sense. Who I was began to make sense. I found explanation for what had always seemed inexplicable.

It’s true that each adoptee responds to his or her adoption in his or her own way. Certainly, we are not cookies made from a cookie cutter. But there are basic truths that characterize the adoptee experience—and one of those crucial, fundamental truths is the truth of loss, and all the grief and pain that comes along with it.

Why is that so hard for parents and family, friends and strangers to acknowledge this? And why is it so hard for me to press on in the midst of the lack of acknowledgment and the ensuing factions of thought?

Perhaps the answer is that at times, we all take it so personally, while at other times, we may not take it quite personally enough.


The Byrd's Nest said...

I was just complaining about this to a friend of mine the other day. I used to belong to a huge adoption group and granted most of the families in the group may not have encountered any problems that my girls have as of now. My girls have so many issues especially since we have moved out of the country away from everything they has heightened all of their issues. Lottie's "Mommy radar" is on full blast and she is on my body 24/7. And with Emma, we constantly have to remind her who her parents are because she would go home with a stranger in the park.

I made a new friend here a few months ago (a missionary friend) and have confided in her and opened my heart to her about my girls (she is not an adoptive mom) and the things they have gone through and the trauma they have endured and how they handle it. The other day she said, "They were too young to even remember what happened to them, I think they are just taking advantage of you and you are letting them". (sigh)

I told my friend, back home, the other night on the telephone that I am so tired of trying to educate people or not even that.....have someone I can share my families concerns with and them not have the ability to even have some compassion.....only criticism for my girls and me as a parent.

When a woman loses her baby through miscarriage or if someone loses a child, like my Aunt did to leukemia or anything like that, people seem to have so much compassion for those types of situations. Why is this not the same? My babies have suffered devastating losses and what's worse....they have no idea (really) how to put their feelings into words OR they may not even know why they are feeling and acting this way. The latter is my suspicion.

It is very tiresome, it makes me not want to discuss anything about my family with anybody! BUT I am a missionary, and it is interesting among the Latinos here because they have so many questions. So while praying last night I was thinking maybe it is a good thing for people to see that our family is not perfect (not that we have tried to be by any means but that is a HUGE misconception here!) and these are our problems.....and these are my children that I would lay down my life for....and this is how we cope each day with their rage. I don't really know the answer....and I know that I am not an adopted child and I cannot relate to anything you have been through but as a Mom I feel what they feel to a certain degree and I hurt for them and just so you know.....AP's yearn to have someone to connect with them also:)

Thanks again friend for conveying my feelings in your story. And I take it personally too:)

The Byrd's Nest said...

P.S. I'm a real chatterbox huh? lol It was until I posted this comment that I realized how LONG it was....sorry:(

Samantha Franklin said...

I really relate to your blog and this post! Thanks for writing.

Mila said...

Byrd's Nest, I appreciate your comments and how openly and honestly you share your experiences and insight. I breathe a sigh of relief that you are so aware and in touch with the needs of your girls, and that you are so willing to recognize and deal with those needs.

I have to admit, I winced when I read the response that your friend had to your girls' trauma...I know she meant no harm, but her response exemplifies perfectly the kind of ignorance and dismissal adoptees (and adoptive parents) have to deal with on a daily basis...

Thank you for persevering and not giving up. And thank you for taking the time to relate and try to understand.

And obviously I can be a "chatterbox" myself, as exemplified by all the blogging I do! And the long responses I leave. :)

Mila said...

Peach, thanks for stopping by again, and thank you for your blog.

Moosevine said...

As an AP, I know how frustrated, sad, and sometimes even angry I feel when people seem to ignore or "write off" the loss my daughter has experienced and WILL deal with for the rest of her life, so I can only imagine how much more deeply it would affect you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for continuing to share your experience as an adoptee, and your willingness to be vulnerable in spite of the negative reactions you have to deal with.

Gayla said...

I'm so thankful to have found your blog. I have 3 children: 2 bio sons and 1 adopted daughter. She has only been home with us one month, and I fully acknowledge that we have taken her from everything she has ever known. And that kills me. She is 3 1/2 and I know will someday begin to process all of it just as you are. I am thankful to you because I think I can learn to be a better mother to her through learning about your experience. Keep the honesty coming. We are all better for it.

Mila said...

Hi Gayla. Thanks for letting me know that you stopped by and for sharing your thoughts. There is an insightful blog, "The Missing Piece" Thoughts of a Black Adoptee" that you might appreciate (

Denise said...

Thank you once again for speaking the truth Melissa. I for one appreciate your willingness to "go there" when so many won't. I will continue to come here so as to better help our daughter as she grows and has issues with her adoption. I also have to say that until recently I believed that love was enough and was blind to what our daughter might feel as she gets older. Now I am finding myself having to explain to friends and family about her loss, that she was not lucky to have us adopt her, that we were her plan B. Ok, I need to get off, just wanted to send some encouragement your way. At some point I am going to share this on my blog.

Mila said...

Thank you, Denise, for your encouragement! I greatly appreciate you. :)

Soojung Jo said...

Melissa - I have recently discovered your blog and so far find myself nodding in agreement. Since adopting a daughter 4 months ago, I have opened myself back up to all that I hadn't acknowledged. Now this stuff is like crack! Thanks for your voice... I'll be here listening.

Mila said...

Raina, thank you for stopping by! And thank you for listening to adult adoptee perspectives. It's a good thing to get addicted to ;)