I grew up in a family of other adoptees whom I never spoke with about adoption, then or now. I don't know why; perhaps I assumed my siblings were better adjusted than I. As a child, I would always create a fantasy that Diahann Carol was my birth mother and would someday come back for me. If you were to ask most people, my childhood was good. I was afforded many opportunities, cared for, and loved. I do not use the term adoptive parent; they are
simply my parents. However, underneath all of that perceived good of my childhood, I felt I had to be a certain way not to upset or disappoint my parents. Nothing said made me feel less than or that I didn't belong. Like so many other adoptees, I was told I was "chosen." Perhaps that phrase sits in the psyche of adoptees and holds us, hostage to the idea that we somehow owe those who chose us. That phrase gives the impression that our birth mothers didn't choose us, so our adopters deserve our gratitude. I spent my childhood trying to hold the acceptance of my parents, hoping they would never feel like they made the wrong choice.
Being chosen brings images of the people at the animal shelter where I volunteer, wandering the aisles looking over the available animals with a judgmental eye deciding if they could love that animal, based on looks, temperament, how they interact with the prospective adopters. Human adoption is not animal adoption but let's be honest; it's the same premise. The similarities are disturbing if you look at adoption agencies and animal organization websites. Like on the animal site where an animal is placed on hold, the exact wording appears on the children's bio of a particular website I found in Alabama. "Insert child's name is on hold at this time!" Yes, with an exclamation mark. Perhaps this site I stumbled across should take the child's photo down instead of keeping it up as if the prospective adoptive family doesn't come through with the funds; this child could be available again.
Birth Mother Perspective tainted with Adoptee Insecurities
I became pregnant at 16 and became a birth mother three months after my 17th birthday. I am an adoptee who placed a child for adoption. I had no idea the ramifications on my entire life, future relationships, or how I would parent future children. I was ashamed when I found out I was pregnant. I had been the model child. The one, my parents would brag about regarding how well I was doing in school. I felt like I betrayed them, and when faced with my pregnancy, I chose adoption. No one vetted if that was what I wanted to do nor offered an alternative. There was just a collective sigh that I was doing the "right thing." I gave birth, and my adoptive parents went about life as nothing had happened. So now, not only did I not talk about my adoption, I did not speak about the child I gave birth to within my home. I needed therapy at 17. I didn't get it, and my voice fell mute for years. I punished myself for my choice and felt I had no right to speak up nor express any perceived negative emotion about that choice. My silence was penance for putting my son in the adoption cycle.
My duality shifts back and forth within the same interaction as I have reunited with my birth mother. She wants more; the adoptee side is still adjusting seven years later. The birth mother side understands what she feels and how having me in her life makes her feel better.
Over a year ago, I discovered my father is someone other than who she said. I did not disclose this information to my birth mother until recently. I didn't want to upset her. However, not saying anything was gnawing at me. I felt that she was not telling me the truth from the day we connected, or maybe she did not know. When I finally revealed what the DNA uncovered to her, she asked me to keep it secret from my biological siblings. I assume she is ashamed and as a birth mother, I understand shame. As an adoptee, I do not understand the continued secrecy of my origin story, and her request to keep her secret felt like a gut punch. Lately, I have not chosen either side and simply chose my peace. That has looked like less frequent communication, not because I am upset with her, but because the duality of adoption can be exhausting.
The duality of my life is a constant. I try to find a balance but the scale can tilt in either direction. As an outlet for my inner turmoil, I began writing my memoir and joined a writing workshop where I was sharing my story for the first time with anyone other than my children and close friends. Sharing my writing was a massive step in my healing. I was putting my truth out there to be judged by several people, the silence and shame needed to end. An older woman contacted me a day after receiving my pages in our workshop and shared that she had also placed a child for adoption and had always wondered what had become of her child. My story moved her, and it resonated with a part of her life she didn't feel safe discussing until she read a few pages I released to the world. That was the first time I realized I was not alone, adoption always leaves scars, and that my voice, my story, does matter.