Isn’t that really the key? Isn’t that what makes being adopted hurt so darn much? To think that you were unwanted by your own parents, by the very people who created you and brought you into this world. In my opinion, there can be no more profound rejection than being rejected by one’s own parents. There is no boyfriend (or girlfriend) or husband (or wife) who can reject you to the same degree that your parents can. The only thing that might be analogous is being rejected by one’s own children. But even that is on a different level.
But the adoption industry is dependent on convincing people otherwise. It tries to convince expectant mothers that their child will be grateful and appreciative to be given to other people (read strangers) who can supposedly offer so much more than she can, and that the relinquished child won’t feel rejected. But children don’t think like that. Children are creatures of emotion. They don’t think, “Thank you so much Mommy for giving me away so that I can live in this bigger house and have more toys.” No, a child is more likely to think, “My mother left me. My mother didn’t want me.” Children want to come into this world feeling like a treasure, that their family was joyously awaiting their arrival. But being given up for adoption more often leaves a child feeling like an unwanted ‘mistake’ instead; hardly a recipe for healthy self-esteem.
I know some adoptees say that they never felt rejected but always felt grateful instead. But do they really feel that way? Or are some of them just parroting how they think they should feel and winning kudos for being the ‘good’ adoptee? My adoptee friend, Julia Emily, says she considered herself a happy adoptee until she was almost 50. Although, not surprisingly, there were a number of experiences along the way that tried to burst through her ‘adoption is always wonderful’ bubble. The births of her own children made her struggle to understand how a mother could leave her own child. And then, when applying for a passport, she saw the injustice first-hand of her status as an adoptee. As an adoptee who had been adopted at four years of age, she couldn’t supply a birth certificate that was acceptable to Homeland Security. The political issues, combined with the emotional reality of being an adoptee, made Julia Emily realize that her whole life had been based on lies, and turned her once positive feelings about adoption, both personal and political, forever on their head.
There is a school of thought that says to be psychology healthy one should be emotionally autonomous. That we shouldn’t get our self-esteem from how others treat us or what they think of us. As a matter of fact, one of the most oft-repeated quotes of all times is this, attributed to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt; “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” But maybe it’s not exactly feeling inferior, per se, that hurts so much from our parents seeming rejection (although being given away by one’s parents can certainly create feelings of inferiority). In my opinion, it’s because the human psyche is hardwired to need love and acceptance from one’s biological parents and that no one else’s love can ever completely erase that need. As a middle-aged woman now, I don’t think I will ever completely get over the fact that I was unwanted by my natural father. Of course, I can tell myself that he was simply a jerk (and from everything I’ve heard about him that does seem to be the case), but he is still my father and it still hurts. There is, and probably always will be, a sting.
A non-adopted friend once told me that she couldn’t comprehend the idea of having two families and, for that reason, she assumed adoptees would have little interest in their original families. She assumed adoptees would only need (and want) a maternal side and a paternal side to their family, even if not blood related, just like everyone else. But for my friend, her blood related families are her only families, so the idea of adding another set of families to her life is purely fictional. But for adoptees it’s not fiction, it’s fact! We adoptees know that there are, in fact, two other families out there to whom we are genetically related.
Did anyone really believe that children could be given up by their natural parents in a closed adoption and that they would never even think about their first parents? Of course, adoptees think of their natural parents. How could we not? Every human being comes from a biological mother and father, and we adoptees are, needless to say, no exception. Even if we never know them, they will always be a part of our lives; even if only as phantom figures. Our natural parents are too important to ever be completely forgotten or dismissed.
I still remember when I first discovered other adopted people on the internet and thought, “I know that pain.” That pain which is summarily dismissed by those who are not adopted and, in particular, by some adoptive parents. Especially those adoptive parents from the Baby Scoop Era who bought the myths, half-truths and lies of the BSE hook, line and sinker, and who are only willing to consider adoption from their own point of view. Many of whom believe that if they love an adopted child enough there should never be a problem (I can hear you laughing). And in a bit of reverse psychology, if the child does have a problem or pain stemming from being adoption believe there must be something wrong with him. Not something wrong with adoption, particularly closed adoption, itself.
So to those adopted persons who aren’t troubled by the fact that their original parents (seemingly) didn’t want them, I tip my hat to you. I wish I knew your secret. I agree that the mind can understand why a person was given up for adoption. But can the heart?
N. B. I am fully aware that the majority of first mothers did not want to give their child up for adoption, but this post is a reflection of how it feels to be given up.