For Maybe – Normalizing

Normalizing a behavior or response is a social processes through which ideas and actions come to be seen as “normal” and become taken-for-granted or ‘natural’ in everyday life. In my case, in relation to my reunion, I worked very hard, perhaps too hard, at making the situation “okay” “natural” and “normal”.

I put my daughters pictures out in my home, I openly spoke about her, I gave my sons regular updates on her status and what she was up to (even though those news items came from my creeping on her blog sites and not from her). I tried my best to pretend that I was okay with the situation, i.e,, that my reunion was normal and an everyday matter that every one understood.

Of course, everyone didn’t.

People often found it strange that I would display my daughters pictures. Others became quiet when I would mention something about her. Still others asked direct, often hurtful and probing questions.  And yet I carried on with my inward dialogue that it was all good, and it was all understandable, and all typical adoptee psychology. I would regularly quote Verrier, or Lifton, or Burns Robinson in relations to others questions. I would educate them on why what my daughter was doing or how she was reacting to our reunion was “normal”.

And while I was doing all that explaining and all that defending of her and the actions of others, I was quashing my own very really feelings. I was crying in silent, cursing her to myself,  wincing at her pictures, stomping my feet and raising my fists – all in the privacy of my own mind.  Outwardly, I was good. I was fine. While people raised their eyebrows and snickered over my love of a child that I a) gave away and b) wants nothing to do with me, I tip toed through the emotional mindfields (intentionally spelled that way) and smiled and explained. For to do anything but that was to risk triggering an explosive response that others, and most importantly, I,  was not prepared to handle.

It is not normal.

There is no normal in adoption.  My reunion is not good, or happy or acceptable. My reunion is not something the average person ever has to deal with and frankly. should they have to, I want them to be able to scream and stomp and FEEL what they feel. I don’t want them to ever pretend that there is anything NORMAL about giving away your child and years later find that child, only to be told to go away. I don’t ever want society to find that to be normal. So why should I perpetuate such nonsense?

If I met another mother, or adoptee, in reunion, I don’t want them to pretend for one second that adoption reunion is normal or worse yet, that their own feelings don’t matter. The industry, the social wreckers and the brokers do that.

I don’t.

Their feelings matter.

And so do mine.

So I ceased that normalizing behavior. I pulled in the reins, I put away the hope along with the pictures.  Now when people ask me why my daughter doesn’t want anything to do me or her brothers,  I respond with a simple “I don’t really know.” Because that is  the truth.

I don’t know.

I no longer make up stories, or fantasize solutions or explanations.

I just let it be.

I let it be…abnormal.

And it actually feels better to let it be what it is rather than pretend it is something that it is not.

13 Thoughts.

  1. No, not normal. Nothing about a mother and child separated is normal. Which is why adoption should be shouted from the rooftops as NOT NORMAL! And mothers, however young or financially unable or whatever, should cease to be manipulated by the adoption industry to provide for those who can’t have their own!

    I’m pissed off tonight, for whatever reason, or maybe I always will be, because adoption did me and my son wrong — damn straight, I have proof!

    Apologies to a-parents who read here. But fess up, most of you didn’t adopt kids who otherwise wouldn’t have a family. Most of you wanted to fulfill your own needs for a family, with no regard for what it cost the mother and child. You were in it for your own needs. You wanted an infant, that you could pretend was all your own. And then shudder if/when the birth mother showed up or your child wanted to know their roots.

    For crying out loud, you owe her, not the other way around. Show some freakin’ respect!. Apologies to those who have welcomed contact… I know you’re out there.

    Suz, we are stuck in the realm of abnormal, thanks to adoption.

    We are not in control of this horrible situation, which started when we were for the most part just kids ourselves.

    Sorry that I don’t have anything positive to say. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow…

  2. Suz, this is completely totally spot on. Extrapolate it to the experience of being an adoptee and an adoptive parent, and it’s equally accurate.

    Mothers and adoptees get that much more than adoptive parents. But if we APs look deep, deep into our hearts and minds, we should realize that it’s exactly the same for us. Our parenting experience isn’t normal. If we can accept it, several things can happen that don’t happen nearly enough now. We could look more objectively at why and how our children came to us, and work more on preventing it. We could accept our responsibility to parent our children in full knowledge of their needs, rather than pretending adoption and race fon’t factor in.

    This week I found an article (lost the link, dangit) in which a mother reached out to a blogging social worker or counselor or something with an issue about her son, who is in middle school. She talked about the challenges he was facing, and in the very last paragraph “mentioned” that he had been adopted from Korea, was the only Asian in a “sea of white faces” in his school, and was being teased about his race and about adoption. The resulting dialog offered no advice having to do with adoption or race. I left a link to John Raible’s crash course.

    Denise said: “Apologies to a-parents who read here. But fess up, most of you didn’t adopt kids who otherwise wouldn’t have a family.”

    Denise, that’s absolutely true, and don’t apologize for saying it! Stats prove it, too, and APs who pretend otherwise have blinders on.

  3. I have hardened myself to the fact that no one cares about my feelings as a mother. The fact that the a-family hurts my son because of me is another matter. My son came into our reunion with such an open heart and mind only to have it shattered by his a-mom.

    Yes, all you can say is “I really don’t know” but your daughter is young and may have pressure put on her that you cannot imagine. My son is older (has a masters in psych) and is talkative like me so I am lucky (?) to be privy to much of that kind of pressure and it isn’t pretty. You would not believe what has been said to him by extended a-family members and he is 42!

    It is probably a combination of loyalty, guilt and confusion that have derailed your reunion for now. With maturity your daughter’s perspective will change. Still really hurts in the meantime. I know because I feel it too.

  4. Thank you very much for your response. I seem to have moved into reunion limbo, quite out of the blue. For the past two years I have been struggling with how to integrate my son into my life and “normalize” his sudden presence (or absence, depending on how you look at it). Deciding how to answer questions such as “do you have children,” “where did he go to school,” etc., etc. has been an enormous burden. For a while I liked to be able to answer, “yes, I have one child” because society still cocks its head at a woman who has none (I never had another child).

    But when the questions come it’s an incredible stress to determine how much, or how little, to share. Seeming “normal” because I have a child quickly morphs into my being a completely abnormal non-mother of the worst kind, worse than if I never had a child at all. Or, I get congratulated for being “totally selfless/not having an abortion/giving the baby a better life, which just reinforces the monster non-mother image. So I really can’t win on that front, I’m outside the normal zone for life.

    And yes, I’m angry about the limbo. It’s bullshit.

    (For any adoptees who read this and are offended or think that I’m being selfish – I’m entitled to a little emotional self-preservation).

    • Maybe (and Denise) – I find it so interesting, and yet so sad, that you both feel the need to defend your feelings to either adoptive parents or adoptees. Your feelings, your story, your truth is about you. You are entitled to it and it should be treated with compassion and respect. Any random adoptee or adoptive parent who reads your words and is offended or upset at you (someone they presumably dont know) should look into themselves and see what they are truly reacting to.

      Please dont apologize on my blog for your feelings. You are among friends here.

    • @ Maybe.

      I don’t think you are selfish for not wanting to share a huge trauma in your life with people you don’t feel close to— on their terms.

      That is part of the problem with adoption, people don’t realize how quickly you can get into deep waters with someone by asking “routine questions” I do not share my adoption story with anyone unless I really want to. I skirt the issue in polite conversation, but if they get too pushy with me, I have found saying, “That is a really personal story I may share with you someday when I know you better”

      That has never failed me.

      I am sure I have used other strategies as well, like just looking at them blankly and not responding or saying, that I want to change the subj. I think it is very valuable to have a couple of ‘bug-0ff’ responses at the ready, always.

      Strangely, no one I have ever said that to, have I ever wanted to share with at a later date, but there is no reason for anyone to be forced into bringing out a painful experience for someone’s idle curiousity or entertainment.

      It is not lying. They are using poor judgment by prying. Nosey Parkers.

  5. denise and Margie, and all others, your words made me tear up. And Suz, you are right, sometimes, I feel that I have not right to be angry, because I might offend someone. Well, we all are entitled to our feelings.
    Thanks Suz, for your blog and thanks for those who comment and share their feelings.

  6. Suz, you are absolutely right adoption/reunion is not normal. I have spent 43 years, 3 in reunion trying to make it feel normal. No luck! My reunion is good, whatever that means. I do have regular contact with my son and I see him twice a year. But it is still not normal. It still feels empty and very much a surface relationship. I will never get to be called Mom by him, ever. How normal is that? I have years of practice in putting on a good show for everyone so it is good to say out loud that it is not normal and it hurts all the time. Thank you for opening the door for me to be angry!!

  7. Normalizing, perhaps, could be a form of welcoming when it comes to our kids. I know that I welcomed my children by including them in my conversations, displaying their photos, confirming that they were indeed my son and my daughter, sharing my story with friends and family, and rejoicing openly in knowing that they were safe and that I could speak with them, even develop a relationship. My intent was to welcome them, unfortunately they did not view my actions as a welcome, but rather an indication that I was not willing to accept the reality that they are no longer a part of my family or of me, except in the most basic of ways, biologically. Every gesture, gift, acknowledgement, they chose to view as a need to make myself feel better for having placed them for adoption and as a threat to their adoptive family. They both worked very hard to make certain that I knew that they did not think of me as their Mother. Even though they both verbalized that they wanted me in their life, they balked at any claim that I am their Mother. They wanted me to be something else, a friend who was held to the same standard as they expected in their mind their Mother should act, but they just wanted to hold me to the standard in their minds without acknowledging me as their Mother and to make certain that above all I know that I am not important to them, that everyone and everything in their lives, they would place before me and I am to like it, to be grateful for that.

  8. I like this post. I try to psychoanalyze Everything. And, usually come away with words like typical and normal. But the way you say here speaks to me. We need to feel our response, no matter what, we need to express it. Otherwise, we are just reading The Kool-Aid bible of psychoanalysis. Even when we know that adoption hurts everyone, it’s still difficult to overcome all that the family wreckers told us. Yes, Verrier, etc etc, have good points, but you’re right, there is no Normal in adoption. Because adoption is not normal.

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