While everyone else is celebrating National Adoption Awareness Month, there are those whose lives were forever changed due to societal pressures to relinquish children and by unscrupulous behaviors by those they thought were there to help them and who have unending feelings of loss and abandonment.
And, while we would like to think this only applies to adoptions done in the 1940-60’s, there are still birth and adoptive parents who question their decisions and choices, as well as adoptees who are affected by silence and by the inability to secure information about their past and details of their adoption.
All adoption stories include an element of loss and/or grief. The loss of a biological connection and emotional ties to family, culture and traditions. The loss of the dream of a biological child or family. The loss of knowing you look like someone else. The loss of knowing who you are and where you belong.
Feeling different is common among adoptees. They are different from siblings, their parents and often their peers. Many want information which is not available. This does not mean they do not love their adoptive family. Rather, that they have questions about birth family, culture and tradition and wonder who they would have been had they been raised by the birth family?
Some adoptees experience an ambiguity towards birth and adoptive parents. They may be thankful for the life they have or spend time feeling they do not deserve their current lifestyle. They may be angry at birth parents for relinquishing them or adoptive parents for taking them away from the birth family. They may share erratic relationships with siblings, who may be related to parents through birth or adoption.
Lack of information may lead to them feeling that something is missing from their lives or raise questions. Finding information or reuniting with birth parents may satisfy some adoptees but can create more questions and concerns. Reunions may not turn out as hoped for and may lead to the resurfacing of feelings of rejection and abandonment or uncertainties as to how to proceed. It may also lead to feelings of guilt related to making their adoptive parents and family thinking they were not enough.
Reflecting back may arouse feelings of sadness, anger and loss. Even if the decision was the correct one at the time, there may be unanswered questions, wondering about a child’s current life and remaining anger about the process, lack of support, and pressures by others which prevented you from making your own decision regarding parenting.
For years, closed records, silence and secrecy prevented parents and children from finding one another and gaining answers to questions. Even now, open adoptions take all forms and do not necessarily allow for ongoing contact between children and parents. Adoption language suggests using terms such as: first mother, biological parent or birth parent. Common language continues the use of “real parent” or “adoptive parent.” The legal process uses the term “natural parent.”
What’s wrong with this picture is that both birth and adoptive parents are the child’s parents. One may have given birth and the other may be raising the child, but nature and nurture together make the child who they are and will continue to influence physical, emotional and social development.
Birthparent groups have created Bewareness Month to recognize their experiences. Wearing red ribbons for passion, black ones for mourning and white ones for hope, they reflect on their sadness and anger in response to the hoopla and celebration of National Adoption Month.
While most adoptive parents are celebrating, there are those who have had less positive experiences. Children they cared for and hoped to adopt were removed from their care or the adoption was overturned when the child’s needs outweighed their ability as parents.
Years of yearning to adopt may not yet have been achieved. Any celebration of family or children brings sadness. For those who passed up the dream of a child, due to age or inability to biologically procreate, seeing happy children and families in news broadcasts or media campaigns brings an old yearning to the surface.
There are also parents who are dealing with physical, emotional or learning issues they did not anticipate. And while, this could have occurred with a biological child, some adoptive parents, who are overwhelmed and unprepared to meet their child’s needs, wonder if they made the right decision to adopt.
There may also be adoption related issues. A child may have questions and a parent may feel helpless or unwilling to answer these questions. Conversations regarding adoption may lead a parent to feel “less than” or inadequate. Some adoptive parents are afraid to ask for help feeling professionals will question their ability to parent. In actuality, asking for help is a strength. All parents (birth and adoptive) have questions at some point in childrearing. However when questioning their own ability to parent, celebrations by others can lead to feelings of even more inadequacy and failure.
National Adoption Day and Month was formulated to find permanent homes for the over 100,000 foster care children freed for adoption, but waiting for a home each year. While celebrating those who have found one another, let’s not forget the children, families who struggle with the adoption system, children who age out of care without a family or those children who wait.