Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Does an Adoptee's Experience of Reunion Influence His/Her Views on Adoption?

I have a question for other adoptees who have had contact with the biological family in adulthood. Do you think that your experience of reunion has influenced the way you view the institution of adoption as a whole, and if so, how?

I'm aware that my own experience of reunion is certainly a factor in the view I hold. In my case, I found parents who had been young and lacking in resources and support at the time of my birth, but who were not otherwise "unfit." I was born into a culture of secrecy and shame and was placed for adoption primarily to keep up appearances. (My biological grandmother was a person particularly concerned with external appearances, but she was not alone in that era. I recommend Rickie Solinger's Wake Up Little Susie for anyone who is interested in learning more about the social forces in play at the time.)

I love my adoptive family and don't wish them away, but I've also struggled throughout my life and into the present with adoption-related issues. My biological parents didn't escape without negative repercussions either. So it's impossible for me to view adoption itself as something entirely positive or even benign.

I'm frustrated that the societal solution to the problem of teen pregnancy at the time of my birth in the baby scoop era was one that completely severed me from my biological family, as well as from any knowledge of my history and roots, without in any way taking into account the threads that continued to bind me to that family.

I speak out against the institution of adoption as it is currently practiced primarily because I still see a huge discrepancy between the primarily positive way the adoption option is presented -- both to expectant parents and to members of the broader culture -- and the more complex reality as many of us have lived it.

The thing about adoption is that it seems so deceptively simple and elegant. You have an unplanned pregnancy and parents who, for whatever reason, are not prepared to take on the job of parenting. And then you have an infertile couple who want to be parents more than anything in the world. So you simply transfer the child from one family to the other and -- ta da! -- everyone is happy!

Except that it's not so simple. Except that every day I open up my Internet browser and read stories of almost unendurable pain and heartbreak caused by that "simple" transaction. Except that the mathematical simplicity of the adoption equation fails to take into account some core issues of biology and human nature.

So there you have it: my view of adoption as influenced by my own experience of it. I'm aware that some adoptees view adoption differently than I do, and I'm both respectful of that difference and curious about it. How did we all get to the positions we occupy, and in what ways were we influenced by the specifics of our individual journeys? That's what's on my mind today.


  1. Yes, like you Rebecca, my reunion experience has definitely influenced my views on adoption as a whole.

  2. Holy crap, you hit that right on the head of the whole issue. Adoption seems simple to everyone BUT the people who have to live with it every day. Even those of us in open adoptions (like me) who are at peace with the decisions we made (I wasn't coerced into choosing adoption like your birth mom or like so many others even to this day) still have to live with a much more complex version of life than the lives others outside of adoption seem to think we live or should live. And to answer your question: Though you know I'm not an adoptee (adult or otherwise), the experiences each one of us lives every single day (whether adoption-related or not) most definitely color our views and opinions on those same issues. So in other words, you're not wrong for feeling like your own adoption experience (and reunions, now) have colored your views and opinions of adoption. Two sides of the same coin! :)

  3. AMEN! I so completely agree.. I always say that adoption is a lot like communism. They both look good on paper, but neither take into account human nature and that's where it all goes wrong. Of course, I am not an adoptee but a birthmother, but I think for both, and this is generalizing, if we allow ourselves to actual see or feel the losses associated with it.. then our views of the institution as a whole changes! I look forward to others thoughts on your question!

  4. My reunion isn't at all what I expected or hoped for. I thought I would feel instantly connected. My b-mom isn't really for contact and thus I remain a secret to my half-sibs. My b-dad welcomed me with open arms and calls me, when I don't as often as I should. I don't feel any connection with him, sadly, but he does with me. I really want to, but I just don't feel it. And strangely to me, I feel more connected to my adoptive family (mom, brothers, cousins) as a result, even though I still feel very different from them.

  5. Yes! Reunion has radically changed my view of adoption and being adopted.

    Although I know it sounds impossible, but prior to reuniting with my birth father, I never seriously considered my life prior to placement with the family that raised me, never questioned how "wanted" and "special" I was. I was the poster child for happy adoptees.

    Once my birth father found me, the truth of my conception and entry into the world as a shameful, dirty secret was made very real to me. My birth mother never told her family, and moved from one coast to the other to birth me in secrecy.

    Meeting and getting to know my birth father provided me my very first experience of genetic mirroring (a term I learned here on your blog!), and I was overwhelmed with the startling comfort of LOOKING LIKE ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. I had the sense of getting my first real breath of air after not even knowing I was missing a lung. I had an immediate sense of relief followed by intense outrage.

    Living with family members (no matter how loving) that share no genetic ties is isolating to a degree that I didn't realize until I met a blood relative. And it's not just the physical similarities, but shared interests, temperament, and abilities, all of which I saw reflected back to me for the first time when I met my birth father. As much as I was delighted to see these similarities, I was also surprisingly upset to realize I had to wait 38 years to have an experience that most non-adopted persons take entirely for granted.

    One more piece of reunion that altered my feelings about adoption was learning that the adoption agency literally white-washed my ethnicity on the non-identifying information I was provided. I was told that my father was of English descent, when in fact, he is Labrador Metis, a first nations group of Canada. Learning the truth of my heritage upon reunion filled in so many gaps for me, but again, made me so angry to learn it so late. Especially because the agency KNEW the truth, but white babies are more adoptable, hence the white-washing.

    Whew. I feel like I've been waiting 4 years for someone to ask me this question! Thank you, Rebecca, for the chance to weigh in.

  6. "I had the sense of getting my first real breath of air after not even knowing I
    was missing a lung.... I was also surprisingly upset to realize I had to wait 38 years to
    have an experience that most non-adopted persons take entirely for granted."

    I can completely relate with what you've written here!

  7. The whole system of adoption has changed my life! Kat, I am a bio-sister that never knew about my sister until Jan 2010. I searched and I found her through the courts:( My daughter whom was 13 at the time "introduced my to facebook". I had befriended and friended so many people in the "adoption world" and so many people were searching for the bio families. It built a false illusion in me that my sister would be happy that I found her. At first she was and then after about 8 months she basically crushed me. Although we still do remain in contact, she has caused me to not trust her. I knew that when I found her so quick that I was in uncharted waters so to speak, but I never expected me and my children to have gotten so hurt. We are secrets in my sister's life. Her adoptive parents have no idea that I found her. I could totally respect her decision and understand if she would have told me from the beginning. I truly regret now involving my children, with her's (cousins), because she wants me to have them lie?! This breaks my heart as in all of us are truly being denied a relationship that should never have been broken, and I don't want to teach my children to lie. They all have rights to know their biological history!

  8. It's a heartbreaking situation for sure when one party to the reunion isn't ready for openness, honesty, and real connection. Sadly, this is a common scenario. Sometimes it's the adoptee. Sometimes it's one or more member of the bfam. A difficult situation, either way. Sorry about your children. I agree that they shouldn't have to lie!


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