Saturday, October 27, 2012

All About Me: All About You

Adoption isn't a big deal. Being adopted into a family isn't significantly different from being born into one. The adoptee's position in the family is a little bit extra special because he or she was really wanted, but other than that, there is no difference.

How do I know all this?

I know because it says so right there in my adoption baby book. And if my adoption baby book says it's so, it must be so, right?

For most of my life I knew very few adoptees. I am now connected to hundreds of adult adoptees online, through blogging, facebook groups/pages, and twitter. For most of us, adoption is a very big deal. For years we stumbled forward, trying to find our way with a faulty map -- one made for us by people who have never walked this path. Some of us were lucky enough to eventually discover maps created for us by the likes of Betty Jean Lifton and other adoptee writers. And now the Internet and social networking have brought adoptee connections to a whole new level.

For many years I felt confused and disoriented because I couldn't reconcile my actual experience of adoption with what I had been told my experience should be. Because guess what? Being adopted is different. It matters if you don't share genetic traits with those whom you call family. It matters if  you don't know your medical or your cultural history. It matters that someone carried you for nine months, gave birth to you, and then for years afterwards you didn't even know her name or anything about her. It matters if you grow up knowing that you have a family out there somewhere whom you may or may not ever meet. It matters if you have questions and no way to get answers.

I was affected by these things, as were my fellow adoptees. And I was affected by the pressure -- sometimes subtle, sometimes not -- to act as if none of it mattered.

I am done with act, and so it seems are many of my adoptee friends. And what a relief it is!

Also, what joy in the companionship! For so long I felt alone. I am no longer alone.

Adult adoptees do not speak with one voice, but we are beginning to form a chorus. For the first time in history, we are emerging en masse to tell and interpret our own stories. We are tossing away the script that was created for us. We are writing our own lines, expressing our own truths.

Human beings are social creatures, and the need to see parts of ourselves reflected back at us from others seems to be at the core of who we are. As an adoptee in reunion, I was finally able to experience genetic mirroring in my 30s. And now I am receiving another kind of mirroring that was long missing from my life: the reflection of my adoptee experience. Even when an another adoptee's story is different from my own, or when he or she has come to a different conclusion than I have about the impact of adoption, I can usually find some overlap. And then there are those other times -- the moments when the reflection is startlingly true. I read the words of another adoptee and every part of my being shouts YES! I could have written the words myself; they are an exact reflection of my experience or emotions. Or sometimes it happens the other way around: I write something and receive the acknowledging "yes!" from another.

Adoption cut me off from my biological family, and in some ways it also cut me off from humankind. When adoptee grief began to rise up in me in my 20s, it was accompanied by a loneliness so profound it was almost unbearable. And I so confused because I wasn't supposed to feel any of that. Now I know that what I felt, others have felt. Now I have a way to process in community, rather than simply spinning it all around in my head. This is a profound difference, and it matters more than I can say.


  1. Really, really nice post, Rebecca. I just want to add something from the mom's side: All those same years that you were supposed to be happy about being adopted, I was also supposed to believe that your life away from me was better than it ever could have been with me. And I was never, ever supposed to tell anyone about you, or express my loss. (After all, it was in everyone's best interests, wasn't it?) I'm so glad that you, and so many other adoptees, are speaking up and speaking out.

  2. Ha ha. I have the exact same baby book!!

  3. Rebecca, you seem to always touch my heart and tell some part of our common experience that is remarkably bitter-sweet. If seems that all my life I have been expected to act as if my life experience was "normal" while being reminded, like you, that I'm not really a "natural member" of the world they expect me to excel in.. "And I was affected by the pressure -- sometimes subtle, sometimes not ". The first I ever felt "normal' and appreciated was at a 12 step group. How strange is that? Now I find the adult adoptee community is equally affirming. I thank you for that consistent and loving message.

  4. Rebecca...I assume that is your baby book...I have the same one. I loved looking at it growing up and at the same time it made me feel very I knew it was not genuine. It's funny how we know from an early age...well, not funny exactly!

  5. Thank you all for your comments! Julie, yes that's a photo of the actual book. It seems a lot of us had it:

    Even now I have a reaction similar to the one you describe as a child; I am sort of drawn to the book but it also gives me a creepy feeling that is hard to put it to words. There's just something in me that recoils.


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