Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Into Thin Air: The Amazing Disappearing Adoptee

My original mother reminded me recently that she still hasn't seen a baby picture of me. I've dug out my "All About You" adoption book and will scan a couple of photos for her soon. For most of my life I was "the hole in her heart" or "the ghost child," but, until I reemerged in her life 30+ years after my birth in the form of a letter and a newspaper clipping, she had not one visual image on which to hang her thoughts of me.


What strikes me most as I think about this is that anyone ever thought this was okay, that the shame of "unwed motherhood" was so great that this was considered to be an acceptable price to pay. More than acceptable even. My first mother and others of her era were expected to happily move on with their lives, grateful for their second chance -- their reinstated "innocence." Adoption in the closed, baby-scoop era wasn't just about mothers who didn't raise their children, or about those children being raised in families that "could give them more." It was about hiding a shameful thing from the neighbors. I was "disappeared." Erased. And my birth mother was told to proceed as if nothing had happened.

It was a convenient arrangement, but one that took no account of the very real emotions of adoptees and birth parents, emotions that have rippled through the years and are rippling still. What originally seemed an amazing feat of prestidigitation has now been revealed to have been a rather shoddy illusion. Ta-da -- here I am.

10 comments:

  1. neversaidgoodbyeMay 22, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    So many times I hear adoptive parents talking about how their birthmother does not open the letters they sends or closes the open adoption... I truly feel in most cases it is just to painful for them to continue to see what they lost... what are your thoughts of do you have information about this? I was from a very much closed adoption (1980).

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  2. Barbara Jean WalshMay 22, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    Yes, you've always been the "whole" in my heart.

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  3. Aw, thanks. But I'm going to fix that typo just the same. :-p

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  4. I think original mothers, like adoptees, have a range of responses, depending on temperament, own trauma, etc. For some, yes, I think it's just too painful. Easier to create a buffer of numbness. But then there are others who absolutely _live_ for those pictures and updates. I don't think open is necessarily "easier" than closed, but it has many potential benefits.

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  5. I just want you to know how much your blog encourages me. Thank you.

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  6. Monika ZimmermanMay 22, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    I'll address neversaidgoodbye's comment from a birth mom point of view. Though you will NEVER catch me saying it's easy to have a relationship with my daughter and her parents, I believe, as her parents do, that the relationship is important for HER. Yes, I relinquished for her, but the painful decision didn't stop there. Sometimes I think it might be "easier" to close the doors and try to walk away. But truthfully parenting is not easy and just because I'm not raising her doesn't mean that I get out of making all the hard choices. I think those that relinquish and then walk away when they KNOW better and are denying that their child's adoptive parents want a relationship that they are the selfish birth moms that we hear about. Personal opinion only. Sorry I rather hijacked the post. Great post, as usual, Rebecca. I truly love the way you write!

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  7. It's interesting to me that I'm reading "The Girls Who Went Away" right now, and I just read this blog post. The thing that just floors me is that those mothers were told to just "forget about it" and "you won't even remember." As if you ever could. . .

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  8. Exactly! Stunning, really. Thanks for your comment.

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  9. When I think of my own biological mother, I cannot imagine the humiliation she must have felt of being told that my adoptive parents were 'more deserving' and had more rights to her own baby than she did. It is so inhumane, it blows my mind. And I cannot understand how anyone thought these mothers would just move on with their lives and be 'reborn' as if nothing happens, and the same would happen to us adoptees. The lack of empathy is astounding. I wonder if adoptive parents ever wondered how the mothers of their children felt? The only empathy my adopters showed towards my mother was more like patronising, calling her inadequate. And my poor mother was never able to defend herself. I think the Baby Scoop Era was mind-blowingly inhumane, and I can't believe society just stood by and let it happen. I am so glad that Australia apologised. My adopters point blank refuse to believe my mother was coerced despite evidence that she was. They'd rather me believe she chose to 'give me up' than face the truth that the participated in something that, these days, would be illegal.

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