Tuesday, July 3, 2012

You Do Not Have to Be Good

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
-- From "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver
Can we please just end one thing right now: the whole idea of the "good adoptee" versus the "bad adoptee." How many of us have struggled with this?

I read this post a while back by Emilie of Never Said Goodbye, and it has been on my mind ever since. I can't tell you how much it bothers me that there are still people out there who believe that an adoptee's desire for contact with the biological family is a betrayal of the adoptive one. No, no, no. The desire to know one's history and roots, to meet people who are related and reflect back the self -- these are normal human desires. Why is it that people who have never lived without genetic mirroring, who can't imagine not having it, think that they have the right to tell adoptees that its absence doesn't matter? And yes, I understand that not all adoptees are motivated to search, but those adoptees are not the "good" ones, and their adoptive parents aren't the winners in adoption game, the ones who didn't get betrayed.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

How many of us have had the experience, like Amanda spoke of yesterday at LGA, of stumbling at the beginning of our search, or hesitating to begin at all, because of fears of betraying the adoptive family? I'm lucky that my own adoptive parents never put any guilt on me about wanting to search for my biological family. When I decided to search, they were supportive. And yet, it took me years to start the search because I had picked up the idea of disloyalty somewhere. I breathed it in from the culture around me. I heard comments like the one from the prospective (oh, we hope not!) adoptive parent Emilie discusses in her post. I took it all in and for years the internal struggle tore me apart -- the desire to know and be known by my biological family in conflict with the desire to be "good."

I understand that original parents also frequently face external pressures to fulfill a role: the "good" birth parent (often, this means one who goes away quietly). Wherever we are in the constellation, I say enough is enough.

You do not have to be good.

Oh, and it's okay to drink coffee, too. And it's more than okay to want your original birth certificate. I wrote this post last night and then woke up this morning to read this one by Amanda at Declassified Adoptee. Once again Amanda has hit the nail squarely on the head. To her sermon I have just one thing to say. Amen!


  1. Thank you.

    You = awesome!

  2. I SO agree. My dad wanted to find out about his birth family a LONG time ago but STILL struggles with the guilt his parents and society put on him to be a "good adoptee" and think that his parents are and were enough. What they and society don't realize is that the adoptee wanting to find his or her genetic mirroring has absolutely nothing to do with how much they love their parents. Ugh.

  3. Yes, thank you Monika. That's it exactly! My desire to know my biological fam does not detract one bit from how much I love my adoptive fam. It actually has nothing to do with them. It's about me and my identity.

  4. And to you, I shout another "amen" :)

  5. Awesome points!!!

  6. NEVERSAIDGOODBYEJuly 5, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    awww... I just saw this post ... thanks for linking me... I feel so inept at writing about adoption when so many are such great writers. I spoke with a IN REAL LIFE adoptee friend the other day who is trying to come to grips with how his adoption has impacted him. He is from Illinois and sent off his paperwork for his ORIGINAL birth certificate- only to have it sent back since he did not notice he needed to pay 15 dollars for it. And he has not sent it back in yet- we are going to work on that this week I believe. While talking to him- IN REAL life- it is almost so difficult and I want to bolt- I am too exposed- sitting there in his living room-and us both saying things that the other truly understands. He says I am living in a life long depression- I want to do better- I think I need professional help.,... I warn him- make sure they truly understand adoptee issues- ya know- most don't... and he looks at me and says- Em ... you have just given up- it is so tragic to see- but you have given up. While he sees hope that he can seek professional help and maybe meeting his biological parents will help- and here he sees me as having given up...

    Anyway- thanks for linking me... I am not giving up- nor giving in- just some days the mountain seems to steep for me to climb.


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