Certainly Possible

"I’ve learned that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have." – Unknown

Mary, an adoptive mom reader, made a very valid point. I will paraphrase a bit. I hope she doesn’t mind.

Essentially what I got from her comment was the suggestion that perhaps the reason my daughter has so little interest in me, her brothers, her first family, her medical history is because her adoption "worked". It did what the social workers say it is supposed to. Maybe she is one of those adoptees that feel no connection. Maybe her life was so perfect and wonderful that she has no need or curiosity to know where she came from, her first mother and father, brothers and sisters. Maybe, like many adoptive parents and adoptees report, to her, "genetics is nothing". Maybe she is whole and complete and wonderful and fabulous and all the other stuff the agency told me she would be by being raised with strangers. Maybe she has no such thing as primal wound. Maybe she was that blank slate that could be easily assimilated into another clan. Peruse nearly any adoption forum and you will likely come across an adoptee or two that insists, emphatically, they are fine with being adopted.

It really is quite possible, right? (If we want others to accept our reality, we must surely accept theirs, no?)

It is something we mothers have to think about. That is what we were supposedly doing, right? Giving our children a better life and letting them go? Now, even though the agencies and society lied to us in their suggestion that mothers could get over it and would go on and never feel a thing for our children again, we should not necessarily assume that our children are like us. Just because we never got over losing our child doesn’t mean they could not get over losing us. We can cite experts and theory and imprinting (children KNOW they lost their mothers and it is forever a part of their chemical makeup) but what if those experts are wrong? What if some children can and do get on "just fine". They never knew any differently. The one mommy who raised them is their one mommy. Even if they came from somewhere else, they may be so whole and complete that the fact that they have another mother or family does not matter to them. Maybe mommies and daddies CAN be replaced. Maybe Verrier and Lifton and others have it all terribly wrong.

When I think about my daughter, my friend K’s daughter, my friend D’s daughter, I have to disagree with the suggestion that they are fine with being adopted. Perhaps my thinking is flawed or incredibly biased, but I disagree based on the following.

Wouldn’t a whole, complete, not bothered adoptee at least treat their mothers or first families like they would a stranger? Wouldn’t they be polite and talkative and not feel threatened or uncomfortable?

My belief (again, I am willing to admit it may be erroneous) is that the adoptees who struggle with reunion, who are ambivalent, hostile, are not adoptees for whom adoption "worked". They are adoptees that are struggling and conflicted with the fact that they are adopted. Maybe they are like my friend J who was told by her adoptive parents that they would withhold her college funds if she was in contact with "that woman". Maybe they are like my friend T who was literally disowned and thrown out of the family home by her adoptive parents when she started asking questions about her first mother. Maybe they are like my friend Z whose adoptive mother told her if she found her first family adoptive mother would commit suicide. Maybe those ambivalent adoptees are plain old scared and have had no support in addressing their adoption trauma.

I don’t know.

I cannot know and we cannot know unless an adoptee tells us themselves. And even when they do tell us, I am sometimes apt to question. When adoptees demand over and over, often in harsh angry tones, they are FINE with being adopted, I wonder who they are trying to convince? When adoptees are angry and rude to people they don’t even know and claim they don’t want to know, I wonder what is behind that behavior. It is said anger is often a fear based emotion. What are they afraid of? (I might add the same is true with mothers who tell you over and over again they are superdeeduper thrilled they gave away their baby.)

I do know that when someone doesn’t matter to me, I am at least polite to them. I am not passive aggressive, harsh, rude, angry. I am civil. I am friendly. Anything more or less than that implies to me, that there is some emotion there. To me, in my life, when I am emotional with someone to any degree, it is because they mean something to me. Because I have some emotional attachment to them.

In short, I agree with Mary that is theoretically possible my daughter is one of those very well adjusted happy adoptees that has no desire to know where she came from, how or why. I hope that is not the case but I do realize the possibility exists.

Should that turn out to be the case, in the long term, I will do what I have always done.

I will survive and I will continue to love my child regardless.

18 Thoughts.

  1. I know that I have a long involved comment to this, which when I have time I will post.
    But I for now I will say, citing my a personal example. My friend K who had an almost idyllic childhood and has by anyones standards lovely adoptive parents, has an almost insatiable need to know about his bmom. I on the other hand who had a much less (and thats putting it mildly) idyllic upbringing…and am not only an adoptee but a bmom….have no desire to add more family to my life.
    More later…
    jm

  2. AH! JM! My GF! How are you! You prompted me to write another post. Will save it for tommorow. Hugs. Must come visit you soon!

  3. Feel free to paraphrase me anytime. 🙂
    Here is my story that makes me wonder about what I previously said.
    I grew up very close to my grandmother, she was the only grandma I had. No one else in my life was called grandma. It was a role that I reserved for this incredible woman. When I got engaged my fiance”s (now husband)grandmother wanted me to call her grandma. I said no, that made me uncomfortable, that she was not my grandmother I did not want to act like she was. She said taht she understood, but that I was her granddaughter no matter what. She sent me cards from grandma, etc. I was furious and rude to her at times. Over time I have grown and accepted her, now she is one of my grandmas. But I probably never would have if she weren’t so important to my husband. So, I was just thinking in terms of that when I posted before.
    Please, make no mistake I am sure that you are respectful of your daughter’s wishes. But you think of yourself as her mother (not saying your not) and she does not. I wonder if she might feel like I felt towards my hubby’s grandmother.
    Just a thought.

  4. Here’s my personal on this. I grew up without a mother. She died when I was 13 of breast cancer. She was a wonderful mother. Throughout my life, I have several people I have called mom and love dearly. It doesn’t take away from the love that I have for my mom, in fact I look at it as a tribute to how wonderful my mother was, that I associate kindness and safety to the name “mom”. I open my arms to loving “family” type relationships. Perhaps it was because I lost my mom early, I’m not sure. It must vary person to person as JM says she has no desire to add more family, and I actively seek it. 🙂
    There are no easy answers. I keep looking for common thread, the closest thing I have found is what you said yesterday Suz, age.

  5. Two thoughts.
    1)I think anger is based on hurt or fear of being hurt. It’s an attempt at protection of oneself or others.
    2)This post kind of sounds like you’re describing your daughter as “passive aggressive, harsh, rude, angry”. I don’t know if you intended that or if I’m misreading it. My experience is that if/when I say things like that my daughter feels hurt.

  6. Justice – I was referring to myself and how I handle people that I dont know.
    I do know that when someone doesn’t matter to me, I am at least polite to them. I am not passive aggressive, harsh, rude, angry. I am civil. I am friendly.
    But as always, thank you for your concern and your agreement that behind anger is fear.

  7. Kristy – Interestingly you and JM have prompted my next post. I do believe you are right, it will vary by individual. Far too complex – our human condition – to take a one size fits all approach.

  8. just another quick post to add to my earlier comment…a clarification…I have no desire to add more family I am obligated to love. (I know that is harsh)…I have several “pretend” moms, sisters, grandparents, nieces and nephews…
    This time around I got to choose.
    jm

  9. Great post ~ thanks for writing so much to make people THINK…I agree with what you say. Only because I lived it… for years I refused the fact that “adoption” affected me at all. Ha.

  10. I think when it is suggested to you either by implication or directly that the primary indicator of “success” for your adoptive parents is whether or not you seek out your other family – this has a dampening effect on your inclination to do so.
    Kris

  11. I agree with Kris. Searching or not searching, reuniting or not reuniting has nothing to do with how one is raised.
    My asibling and I are prime examples of that. I am reunited, he has no interest and I know that if he were found, he would feel that his first family was “irrelevant” (his words) and would not maintain any kind of relationship with them. And that is his choice. He is not a bad adoptee for feeling that way and I am not a good one either. Just as he is not a good adoptee for having no interest and I am not a bad one for searching.
    He has his reasons and I have mine. It has nothing to do with the people who raised us.
    We are individuals.
    There is no good and bad in this case. There is only choice and it is one of the few choices adoptees are allowed in all of this. Sad but true.
    I am just kind of tired of hearing of all the expectations put on adoptees. It makes my head hurt.

  12. JM – Rather interesting choice of words. Very telling.
    I have no desire to add more family I am obligated to love.
    (emphasis mine)

  13. I have three close friends who are adopted, have thir own families, etc and have and feel no connection to their first familes. For them it “worked”. My friend Catherine’s brother also is adopted and when their mother died she left all the info on his first famil;y and he has said he just does not have any desire to follow up as he has his family already. I think some do and some don’t. No different than biological children, some click with their families and some just dont.

  14. This posts makes me question how TA really feels. She has had a great adoption…but we are still in a ‘good’ reunion. She didn’t find me…I found her. I am thankful that she has had a good life, but would our reunion be different if she hadn’t? She is in her early 20’s…as she grows older will her feelings change? More to ponder…

  15. does it logically follow then that reunions that go fairly smoothly are ones where the adoptions did work well, so it doesn’t matter, so it’s easy to be polite?
    There’s so much grey in between and so much variation among people, I think it’s tempting to put people in boxes when you don’t actually know them, but so often when you do it turns out the box, even if it fits, is not all there is to the person.
    I think there ARE adoptees and first parents who experience minimal trauma and don’t have much need to revisit the past, unfortunately for everyone they’re not always the ones who are related to each other.

  16. Najah – I dont think it does follow logically. Consider these real life people that I know:
    Adoptee # 1 has a horrible adoptive family and has no desire to have more horrible people in her life. She never searches. Perhaps like my friend JM, she has no desire to find people she is “obligated” to love.
    Adoptee #2 has a horrible adoptive family and is desperate to find some decent people. She searches.
    Adoptee #3 has a wonderful adoptive family and wants to find more wonderful people. She searches and welcomes reunion.
    Adoptee #4 has a wonderful adoptive family and as such has no desire or need to find more. Nothing is missing. She never searches.

  17. Hi Suz,
    I know I am a little late on this post but as an adoptee I have to say (with no offense to Mary)that I find this theory just absurd.
    While I consider myself a well adjusted (whatever that means!)adoptee, I think there is a need for all adoptees to tie up the loose ends of the past. What they do with it from there is their choice and anyone’s guess. There are families who are estranged everywhere for a million different reasons. Feuds, money, etc.
    I don’t buy in to the theory that an adoption is like a cake recipe or a lab experiment. It has to be defined as successful or not.
    An adoption is a tragic event on one side and a time of joy on the other. Unfortunately, there is a person who straddles the middle…the adoptee. We often are pulled in three directions by bmother, bfather and aparents. Some adoptees handle it well and some don’t…
    I feel like I am raving and rambling so I will sign off and hope no one takes offense.
    Dan

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