Thursday, June 9, 2011

Evolution of an Adoptee: From Certainty to Ambivalence

As an adoptee my perspective of adoption, and international adoption in particular, has evolved drastically, albeit slowly, over the past several years.

I don't view adoption like I used to view it.

In my earlier years, I was basically a "poster child" for adoption. I would speak at adoption agency functions or at churches touting adoption--I would tell my story to pull on the heartstrings of the hearers--tears would trickle down cheeks--hoping that they would respond by wanting to adopt internationally.

Now I feel sick to my stomach when I think about the way I allowed myself to be used.

I'm not necessarily saying that agencies or churches purposely or manipulatively "used" me, but I will at least say that on certain occasions I was coached on what to say and how to say it. I was specifically told to edit out parts during which I spoke about my difficulties as an adoptee. Eventually, I learned simply to self-edit out the "darker side" of my adoption experience when I spoke at these functions.

And that makes me feel even more gross.

As I have forced myself to think critically about my adoption experience, my ideas about adoption have certainly evolved from positive to ambivalent. And as this evolution has taken place, I find my adoptee identity not as fully embraced by those who once embraced it, whether fellow adoptees or adoptive parents or friends and family. But I have learned that I can only accept this--it's inevitable, at least at this point.

The major point of divergence with many of these folks is my stance on international adoption. When it comes down to it, I am not an advocate for international adoption any more. But I once was. And hence, subsequently, this has led to discord at times.

My reasons for deciding to shift from "advocate" to "un-advocate" are complicated and many. And I have written soooo many posts trying to explain all the reasons, sometimes with success, other times to no avail.

But to share yet another practical yet poignant reason--words from my Omma and Imo:

"Thinking of my grandson, my eyes filled with a tear. As a mother, I should be there and help you recuperating but I can not. I'm really sorry...We can't speak each other's language so we can't talk on the phone..." -Omma

"I'm really sorry for you and your mother. I can't imagine how hard it is to have each other in mind and miss each other for that long time. It's really sad that we can't call each other because we can't speak each other's language even if we miss each other so much..." -Imo (maternal Aunt)

[I received the above words via translation, obviously, in letters written by my Korean mother and Aunt.]

If the above words are not reason enough to make us question International Adoption, then there's no point even bothering to share the host of other reasons...

Yes, I used to speak with certainty about how "lucky" I was to be adopted. I used to say with certainty that I had no desire to seek out my Korean origins and that being adopted had no ill effects on me or my life. And I said it all while smiling sincerely, because at the time I meant it all.

But, then, I had to go and peek inside that box, or open that door, or look over the wall...

And now, I linger in ambivalence. Now, I weep and hurt over the mess that adoption forces me to live.

Although I have an amazing life on one side of the fence, on the other side, I live a life filled with a seemingly relentless grief, sorrow, and aching.

Walking that fence is a balancing act to state the obvious--and I fall and crack open my head on almost a daily basis.

But, I also get back up, wipe away the blood, and hop back onto the fence, albeit dizzy and whirling, because a decision to choose one life over the other feels false and deceptive.

I will continue to evolve, no doubt. But I imagine it will be from one form of ambivalence to another. The only resolution I've come to expect these days is the resolution that I'll never be resolved...


Anonymous said...

Beautiful and puts words into the same feelings and path many adoptees go through.

I think that is why I get so upset when someone uses the "I know an adoptee who..." line.

Rileys in Uganda said...

I think it is very normal for your view to evolve over time. My view on intercountry adoption has also dramatically changed, from an ia parents point of view over the last 6 years, and most dramatically over the last 10 months since we have been living in our sons birth country (and seeing the damage that ia does) plus the fact that our son is now a teenager and that will also force you to change your perspective I think. Loss of ones native language is the one thing that hit me hard when we interviewed Davins father on Tuesday. His fathers english was very limited. It we had adopted Davin or he had been adopted to the US, the thought that if he had found his father when he was older but he couldn't communicate with him, was heart breaking for me and was one of the things that really stood out to me that day as I watched them together. As an intercountry adoptive parent it is one of the things the experts coach you on with regards to one of your childrens many losses through IA - their loss of language. But I think it is difficult to really fathom the depth of that loss and how it can profoundly affect your childs ability to get into a deep relationship if they are ever reunited with their birth parents. Fantastic post as always:)

Von said...

Back in the '70's transnational adoption was frowned on by those who believed it would create extra problems for adoptees such as loss of language, culture and all those things you know so well.It came to pass and now those adoptees are becoming adults and able to speak for themselves about their losses.Who is listening? Is it slowing the market? Here in Australia it seems the plan is to have 10,000 babies from China here by Christmas, do we never learn or do we not care?

Mila said...

@ Von, that's disturbing. I think it's both apathy/indifference and chosen ignorance.

Amy said...

Similar feelings here although I was a domestic adoption and not in reunion (yet...). Each biological child we have had (I have five) has definitely brought the "crazy/head spinny" feelings to the forefront for quite a while.

Anonymous said...

Hi...okay...I am going to remain "Anonymous" because...well...I can. Sorry if it ends up bugging you! I know that this is your blog and you can say whatever you want and I can't imagine the range of emotions that you feel as an adoptee who is now reunited with your birth family. However, as a mom of "bio" children and one child adopted internationally, I've come to be a little, well, offended by some of your statements. And, I use the term statements because you are entitled to your own emotions but sometimes what you are saying may be taken as statements that may offend those of us who are just loving our children and hoping that they feel as loved as they are. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my daughter with everything that I have. I love her the exact same as my "bio" children and am incredibly blessed to have her as my daughter. I feel very sad that she has become my daughter out of a sad situation but yet I feel very thankful that good has come out of the sad situation. You see, my daughter was born with a birth defect and was abandoned at birth. Sometimes you state "ideals". Yes, it would be ideal if someone paid money to her family to be able to get her the surgeries that she needed. But, come on, let's be real! That never would helped her in her situation, at least not with her birth country. Do I wish that bad things never happen? All the time!!! I wish that children didn't get cancer, and divorce didn't occur, and tornados didn't happen, and people wouldn't lose their jobs, and government wouldn't have so much power, and babies wouldn't be born sick, and children wouldn't lose their families. The list goes on and one. Life is hard and bad things happen. I can't change that. But what I can do is look at myself and what I have (emotionally, physically, educationally), and help where I am strong in those areas. And, I can also show love, real love. I can help a family who is dealing with sickness, I can try to help my friends who are dealing with divorce, I can help my friend or family member deal with loss of wages if possible, and yes, I can love a child and potentially bring that child home to be loved by her family. I have a training in the exact special need of my child and I was also born with something very similar. So, I feel that we are an amazing fit together. Do I think that she is "lucky"? No! Not at all! I completely understand that her being here with us is because of loss, sickness, pain, loneliness, and someday lots of questions and confusion. But, I know I will not sit by and HOPE for an IDEAL world situation when I have specific capabilities (emotionally, physically, educationally) to DO something and to LOVE!! And, I am beyond privileged to be able to call this amazing little girl my daughter!!! The only reason that I felt compelled to write to you is because I understand that someday my daughter will be reading lots of different blogs from various adoptees. She is a happy little girl right now with a very positive and sweet spirit about her. And, I hope that as she gets older that her heart tends to look towards other adoptees who have that same positive spirit about life and that the she doesn't get stuck in the ideals and negative of life because, well...that's just not life and saying stuck in negatives and ideals doesn't move people forward in growth. I hope that you will understand a little bit of where I am coming from. I'm not saying you shouldn't feel what you feel. I just wish you would also share the positives of your experiences and I hope that you understand that "good" does come out of international adoption even if it is "hard". Life is hard but it is good! Thanks for "listening".

Mila said...

@ Anonymous-- you wrote : I just wish you would also share the positives of your experiences and I hope that you understand that "good" does come out of international adoption even if it is "hard". Life is hard but it is good!

Here's a link to a previous post that you might not have read that addresses the above statement you made:

Furthermore, if you haven't already read this post, please do:

There is so much more I could say, but I've said it all before...