Left is not right. It is left.

"O I am miserable:
You cherished me, my mother,
But even you desert me.
I am sent to an empty place."
– Hilda Doolittle

As I stumbled through news articles, web sites and statutes to better understand how it is possible that an adoptive parent can legally, freely, abandon a child they adopted, I found myself struck by the similarities between what is considered surrendering your child for adoption and outright abandoning your child.

Many of the adoptees I have spoken to, come to love, and now call as friends struggle to see ANY difference between being left on the side of the road or on a doorstep (what many consider true abandonment) and being turned over to an adoption agency.

As a mother who relinquished her child to an adoption agency, I always (and still do) shudder when adoptees say they were abandoned.  I did not abandon my daughter. I did not leave her by a dumpster, on a door step, or in a mall. Instead I handed her over to strangers, who gave her to strangers who then gave her to more strangers. I left her alone when she was screaming for my breast, my milk, the smell of my skin and my touch. She was expecting ME to take care of her. I had no idea where she was going. I had no proof at all that the agency I trusted her to were the least bit trustworthy (turns out they weren’t). I assumed she would be fed and cared for. I had no proof. I conducted no due diligence nor did my parents. That was better, right? (Go ahead, laugh at how absurd that reads. Its okay. That is adoption kool-aid talking.)

Oh sure, we can wrap it up in pretty pink legal bows and emotional justification. We can cite my own age, ignorance, and what was done to me by others. But this post, this statement is not about my perspective; it is about seeing things from my child’s perspective – from the perspective of a child who was left by her mother to the care of strangers. My child.

My child who at 3 days old could not speak, walk, or talk yet did know her own mother. For nine months I carried her and I was the only thing she knew. The only food and warmth she got was from me. She heard my voice. Heard my heart beat and expected to hear it forever.

Yet on a breezy day in May I cut that connection.  I signed one flimsy piece of paper. With tears rolling down my face and landing on hers, I abandoned her. I realize now that when I shudder at those adoptees who say they were abandoned, I am doing so because I am looking at things from my perspective. That is not the way it was, I want to scream. I was doing a good thing! Not a bad thing! They told me it was a good thing! Abandoning is a bad thing! Adoption is not! I am seeking validation and understanding.  Stop saying that. Stop. Stop. Stop.  I don’t want to be branded an abandoner because from my perspective I was not.

From my daughters – and all others adoptees – I certainly was and am.

After reading some of the crazy, confusing back-asswords language used by some to define safe havens, voluntary and willful abandonment, and adoption, I cannot say I blame adoptees one bit in their use of the word abandon.

Regardless of what we call it, how pretty we dress it up, how we justify it, name it, label it, or other, from the adopted child perspective they were abandoned. Left to strangers.  Helpless. Defenseless with no voice in it all. Plucked out of their own lovely familial garden of roses and expected to grow up like a cabbage and pretend they were never a rose.

Justifying the act of abandonment is what makes it acceptable. Call it adoption or abandonment the opening act is identical. Explaining the circumstances that lead to the abandonment allow us to make it more tasteful. It allows the word adoption to roll off our tongues with ease while abandonment? Well, that’s just plain old yucky. That is what those Dutch adoptive parents did, that is what rednecks from the backwoods do, that is what teenage girls do in highway bathroom garbage cans. Right? In the end, is there really a difference? A child is left alone.

The adoption agency will tell you that I “voluntarily” and “willfully” relinquished my child to them.  According to the GA statutes, I should be arrested for that. However, since I abandoned her to professionals, under the name of "adoption", and not on the side of the road it is deemed acceptable by society. It is not abandonment. It is relinquishment (say with a pretty tone to your voice). It is not hard and cold and dirty and cruel. It has ponies and fairies and butterflies surrounding it.

From the adoptee perspective, relinquished could very well be the pretty word for abandoned.

Most adoptees I know don’t care much about where they were left or with whom. It is the fact that they were left at all that hurts like hell.

Leaving my child with someone who was wearing a suit, standing in a hospital room, is not much different (from her perspective) than being left on the side of the road.

Being left is being left.

I am so sorry, M. Mommy never meant it to be this way.

6 Thoughts.

  1. Oh Suz, shit! Does M. read your blog? Reading this might help her. Reading “The Girls Who Went Away” might help her. Before I had first moms in my life, I absofuckinglutely believed that relinquished = abandoned. It hurt like hell and I hated it.
    I have a different perspective now. And while I still hate closed adoptions, I don’t see anyone back then as a villain. Well, maybe the for $ adoption agencies. But that’s a post in and of itself.

  2. I’m still thinking about the differences between losing a child directly to adoption and “true” abandonment, but as someone who was actually “truly” abandoned, I can say right now that I prefer the term “abandoned” to REJECTED (which is listed as one of the proposed “positive” alternatives according to the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange).

  3. To surrender a claim, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the surrender, is one definition of abandonment.
    I don’t think it’s suprising that relinquishment can be experienced as rejection (even while being understood objectively as something else) because the line between abandonment and rejection is quite fine.
    At the time that I relinquished my son I was acutely aware that, even though it was a forced abandonment, I was nevertheless abandoning him.
    I was also painfully aware that I myself was abandoned. As were you.
    I guess all too often that’s how it works.

  4. Suz,
    This expresses much of my own experience and struggle to own the abandonment. I felt the abandonment at the time, of my daughter and myself. But over the years I forced myself to ‘reframe it’ according to my perception of society’s norms, trying to make myself ‘ok’. Confronting that BS shook my awareness back to the original wounds. It’s as though bones had to be rebroken in order to be set properly.

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