When I bought a new car, I had to sign a contract. I read over all the details, or at least the ones I could see, and asked all the questions I had before signing on the dotted line. But there is another contract, an even more important one that has been governing my entire life. And that contract was one I never saw, never read, never agreed to abide by, and certainly never signed. I am referring of course to the unwritten contract I had unknowingly and unwittingly agreed to with my adoptive parents.
The contract that said:
An adopted child would not be hurt by being given away by her natural parents.
An adopted child shall have no emotions towards or even thoughts of her natural parents, except what can be dismissed as mere curiosity.
An adopted child shall fit in and be just like the adoptive family.
An adopted child shall consider the adoptive parents to be her real and only parents. I’m not certain if the adopted child is to think of her natural parents as a breeder and sperm donor or just to not think of them at all.
An adopted child will accept that s/he was ‘meant’ to be the child of the adoptive parents, and that there was no chance s/he would have ended up in a different family.
An adopted child shall accept the adoptive family medical history. In some convoluted way, an adopted child might as well since s/he will most likely never have her own.
An adopted child is to accept not having blood heritage or ancestry without complaint, lest s/he be labeled with, “There is something wrong with you.” Some contracts even expect the adopted child to be grateful.
An adopted child is to accept all the adoptive family relatives as their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, et cetera, (even when the adopted child is not fully accepted by them) without hesitation or question, and to never think about the fact that he or she also has these relationships with people who share her blood.
The adopted child shall be perfectly fine when blood relatives go on and on about their shared looks and other similarities. S/he will never express discomfort at being different or being left out of the conversation.
An adopted child will accept that s/he can never know the true story of how s/he came to be an adoptee (no matter how benign or painful that story may be), and will do so without complaint. And s/he will accept never knowing things such as; contrary to the powers that be, a mother’s love for her child is not dependent on her marital status or on how the child was conceived. Even women who got pregnant as a result of rape usually love their child.
An adopted child shall deny her true feelings if they differ from the prevailing view, so as not to cause problems or risk being abandoned or rejected again.
An adopted child shall accept that to express anything other than the mainstream views on adoption is, in many circles, considered more controversial than Donald Trump’s comments on the 2016 campaign trail.
An adopted child will let those who are not adopted explain her experience and be the experts on it.
But what the contract failed to acknowledge was the persistent sadness, the enduring pain from the fact that your own mother gave you away, as well as the adopted child’s inability to completely forget his or her natural parents. The fact is, where we come from genetically is too important to be dismissed– and it is asking the impossible to expect adoptees to do this. I am truly sorry that my adoptive parents were fed such myths and lies. What they were told to expect from adopting a child was detrimental not only to them but to our relationship as well. But they, being the adults, had a responsibility to look at what was really happening. Or, as Betty Friedan wrote in her seminal book, The Feminine Mystique*, when quoting a New York analyst, ‘If the patient doesn’t fit the book, throw away the book, and listen to the patient.’
Now, most of what I’ve written here pertains mainly to adoptees of the Baby Scoop era.** However, I do believe that even younger adoptees such as Veronica Rose Brown will also have an “adopted child” contract to fulfill, especially since she was even old enough to remember her life with her natural father. And Elliott Rossler will most likely have to fulfill an adoptee contract too, if the theft of his person results in a finalized adoption.
But I find I must be true to my own feelings and experience, and that means tearing up my contract. What about you?
*The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan, W. W. Norton & Company, 1963; Chapter Five, “The Sexual Solipsism of Sigmund Freud”
**Although many of these antiquated notions do still rear their ugly head time and time again.