“Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.” – Jeff Cooper
My personal opinion is that no single place is certifiably emotionally safe for everyone (even a therapist office can be loaded with bias and full of pro adoption koolaid) . I also believe we must make our own safe place.
Making our own safe place can be quite empowering to those that had no choice, no voice, no influence on their own life choices. For me, in my odd way of recovering, I find that in helping my current adult self, I also help the 17 year old expectant mother that still cowers, frightened and anguished, inside me. No one helped her (they just helped themselves TO her and her baby). As discussed, she still lives inside of me and as such, I must help her.
What do you consider safe?
My guess is that what one mom would consider “safe” another mom might consider horribly triggering and painful.
Consider the example of mothers who state that the birthmother term is triggering for them. They wont go to conferences, or read books, or blogs or forums that use that wretched birthmother term. It is their biggest issue, bigger than even losing their child. Its huge for them where as I kinda wrinkle up the right side of my face and say “Huh?” Many mothers (myself included) are unphased by the b-word for we feel they can self-define and that anyone that uses the birth mom word in a slanderous way is saying more about their own ignorance than they are about the “birther” they are referring to. They can go to those bword using places and feel quite safe. Others cannot. Who am I to judge?
Some, mothers, adoptees, and adoptive parents find denial and avoidance safe. I find it unacceptable to me. Who is right? Who is wrong? Is it a matter of right and wrong or rather, self preservation?
Consider forums. Many of my mom friends regularly visit them and engage in difficult, often hurtful, conversations with others. They get attacked by angry adoptees, by ignorant and entitled prospective adoptive parents, by complete strangers. Is that safe? To them it seems to be. To me it is not (perhaps they have a stronger ego). To me visiting those places is like walking into a biker bar inthe middle of a bar fight and getting slashed in the face with a broken beer bottle. Why would I go there?
Consider my own private list comprised of adoptees and mothers that were separated by Kurtz. While we are all friends and fairly respectful of each other, many of us hold back for fear we will hurt someone elses feelings with our own. If we say what we feel (even in venting) we risk upsetting someone and having them not like us and leave us. We dont feel safe. The moms feel protective of the adoptees and vice versa. Several of the moms once tried to set up their own list where they could talk freely about their feelings and it set off a cavalcade of emotions for the adoptees. The moms stayed silent or went elsewhere.
Or how about those chat things some people go to? Many are biased in favor of adopteees and the moms feel attacked and lesser than. Others are all about the mothers pain and the adoptees scream that they hurt more because they lost more than the mothers did (those adoptees have no idea how valuable they are to their mothers). And the pain game ensues with each party trying to claim the trophy for hurting more and losing more. Yet many attend those chats and get a great deal out of it. Again, not me. Not what I need. I find my safety elsewhere.
How about private blogs? Is an adoptee “safe” on the blogof a mother who vents regularly about her difficult child in reunion or will she be triggered? What if that mom rants about behavior that visiting adoptee reader is also displaying in their own reunion? Is that safe or triggering or upsetting? Can the adoptee breathe, read, learn, and move on or will she lash out and attack the mother that she doesnt even know? Again, my guess is that either option may be exercised (and perhaps even more).
We are human. We are dynamic and fluid and vastly different. The gross assumption that is so often made in adoption is that a one size fits all approach works for all. All mothers are the same. All children are the same. Babies are interchangeable and that baby you could not have on your own can be replaced by one you can purchase and can be called your own. All reunions are the same. All safe harbors are the same.
I say WRONG.
Putting aside the fact that as human beings we are too complex and varied to all find solace in the same safe place, I feel (again, for me) that it is a critical part of my recovery to define my own safe place. To make the decision, for myself, that reading certain blogs or specific therapies are good for me while others are not. I cannot stress enough how critical this has been to my recovery that I DECIDE what is right for me. Not my parents, not a casewrecker, baby broker, or priest. Me. No longer am I doing what others say I should do and then suffer the consequences. No longer do I live for the comfort of others. These days I live for the sanity of me.
No doubt I have strugged along this path. I once thought marrying the “right” man would make me “better” and definitely erase my scarlett letter (at the very least fade it to a dull pink like white underwear washed with a red shirt). It didnt. It got me divorced. I thought having a huge house and fancy things would insure that my daughter would respect me and want to know me. It mattered not. I once believed that not talking about my experience would make me feel better. It didnt. I thought writing on my own personal blog (albeit public) was safe. It wasnt always. I friended many adoptees. Some are now wonderful friends that I will love forever. Some I have run from as fast I could.
Fluid. Ever changing but most of all – my choice.
My own safety.