My Journey to Joy

October 24, 2012

Perspective on Adoption

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,

…A few young women I worked with chose adoption for their children. Keening, grieving, terrified, cornered in an impossible position – attempting to simultaneously save themselves and a child from unbearable, insurmountable obstacles, traumatized by the loss and the thought that they were abandoning their child as they had been abandoned. One unmothered-mother, profoundly abused, severely attachment- and conduct-disordered (a year or so away from a significant prison term for a shockingly violent offense), claimed calmly and indifferently to feel nothing for or about the unwanted pregnancy she carried, or the baby she delivered and waived her parental rights to.

A small handful of family-less young mothers, hoping to raise their child on their own – with no external emotional support and no experience of a loving, nurturing parent of their own – at first brought their infants home to special supportive housing. After the mothers reached 21, aging out of the system and its financial support, several babies became second generation foster-care children.

One resourceful, amazing kid, attached to a warm, supportive church that gave her a home when she aged out, and a community of defacto grandparents, aunts, uncles and babysitters. She kept in touch with me for years, sending photos of her beautiful child as he grew and thrived in her loving care. A miracle, against unbelievable odds.

I do not claim that what I have borne witness to is representative of anything generalizable. It is only what I saw. Nothing more, nothing less.

Simultaneously, and in no way directly connected to my consultancy, I began getting referrals for my private practice. Randomly, many of my early clients were adult adoptees or adoptive families. I watched adopted teens negotiating separation and individuation with the additional twists and turns, losses and uncertainties, anxieties not unique to, but enhanced by adoption. I heard some adoptees identify their beloved adoptive families as their only “real “family, and others identify their first, biological parents as the “real” ones. I listened to decision processes to search and to those who thought searching was entirely unnecessary to them. I heard of adoptive parents actively undermining, co-opting, threatened – or deeply supportive of their adult childrens’ journeys. I watched complex, confusing, overwhelming, search and reunion processes unfold, some instantaneous, some protracted, some fulfilling and joyous, some tragic, some both at once: answers at long last to life-long questions, and a wave of new, previously unanticipated questions taking flight, many never to be answered.

And in the midst of it all I became an adoptive parent.

I receive calls sometimes, asking if I have an expertise in adoption.

I am not an “adoption expert” and I do not aspire to be.
I do not know what it is to be adopted.

Truthfully, I understand less and less about adoption every single day.

I have come to believe that every simple, clear statement made about the adoption experience, from any perspective, is at worst wrong and at best incomplete.

Including this one.

My experience in adoption is merely vicarious. I have stood near, peering into that swirling vortex of archetypal energy, putting a toe or a hand in when I am implicated or needed, watching people I care about, dear friends, clients I treat, family members, my children, construct and deconstruct their very identities in the face of a tidal wave of paradoxical answers to impossible questions:

What is motherhood, fatherhood? What are parents? What is birth? What is blood? What is natural? What is inevitable? What is choice? What is fate? What is bravery? What is abandonment? What is rejection? What is selflessness? What is selfishness? What is history? What is justice? What is privilege? What is poverty? What is coercion? What is generosity? What is belonging? What is kinship? What is money? What is ownership? What is commerce? What is love? What is family? What is nurture? What is genetics? What is race? What is racism? What is culture? What is loss? What is grief? What is gratitude? What is anger? What is health? What is normal? What is identity? What is memory? What is truth? What is bias? What is real? What is wholeness? Who are any of us to each other? Who am I?

The adoption community itself fractures under the weight of these paradoxical energies splintering into opposing factions, communities organizing around their chosen set of answers. Some advocate for all adoption to be halted as unethical, coercive, destructive abductions. Some think smuggling children across borders without papers is justifiable to “save” a child’s soul and “provide a better life”. Birth mothers, first mothers, natural mothers, adoptees, adopted persons, adult adoptees, adoptive parents, forever families, adopters – every word becomes an injury, a wounding – language itself becomes impossible and insufficient to describe all of the light and darkness, joys and sorrows, connections and disconnections, contradictions, ambivalence and dissonance.

I’ve learned to think of all of the voices in the adoption community, as dissonant as they are, as part of some whole, that I can never grasp.

Like when people talk about God.

And I have never known any two people to forge answers to more than a few of these questions in the same way.

Any fantasy, myth, generalization, romanticization, stereotype, unconscious bias or assumption that I have ever made – in any direction – about adoption, adoptees, original parents, has been soundly turned on its head, repeatedly.

And perhaps that is the point: these are not experiences for me as a non-adopted therapist, a non-adopted adoptive parent, to identify with, co-opt or fully comprehend.

Perhaps the call is to behave with consistent respect for what I can never understand.

copyright © 2011 Martha Crawford all rights reserved

To read the rest of this article, go to: http://whatashrinkthinks.com/2011/12/04/this-is-not-an-adoption-blog-and-i-am-not-an-adoption-specialist/

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