Talking to the Non-Adopted about Adoption

Recently I attended a local writing critique group for the first time. While introducing myself, I mentioned that I write at a communal blog for adopted women (referring to Lost Daughters).

“A what?” the woman seated across from me asked.

“A blog for adopted women,” I said.

“Adopted women?”

“Women who were adopted as children,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, “I guess there’s a group for everything these days.”

Maybe it was those words “adopted” and “women” together that threw her. The adopted are children, aren’t they? How many people realize that when those children grow up, they are still adopted? There is no end to adoption for adoptees.

 ***

In a graduate writing class, I once wrote about laws that sealed adoptees’ birth certificates. Presenting the piece to my group meant I had to first explain that adoptees’ birth certificates contain information that is not factually accurate. No one in that group had ever heard of an “amended” birth certificate. They’d had no idea that many adopted people do not even know where they were born.

Yet, many of us adoptees must live without this basic information about the beginning of our lives that the non-adopted take for granted.

 ***

I answered a request once from a prospective adoptive mother who wanted us at Lost Daughters to post a link to her and her husband’s “Dear Birth Mother” site in the hopes that our readership could help her procure a baby. This woman had no inkling that adoptees might find her request offensive. She had never considered that someone who is adopted might not want to play a role in another person being separated from his/her biological family in order to be adopted.

***

In the past few weeks, I’ve argued with two different people about the concept that adoptees live adoption, whereas others with a connection to or an interest in adoption do not. I’ve had this argument using slightly different terminology with others over the course of the past several years as well.

I’ve been told by birth parents that they, too, are living adoption, because they continue to deal with the pain and grief of losing their children. I’ve been told by adoptive parents that they, too, are living adoption, because they deal daily with ramifications of their children’s early trauma.

I’ve been told by people with an interest in adoption issues but no direct connection to adoption that their knowledge and experience is just as valid as ours, the adoptees. And that they might be better at addressing issues in adoption because they can speak dispassionately, whereas we bring our own feelings about being adopted to the table.

The fact is, all of these people who are not adopted have made a choice about becoming involved in some way with adoption. It is through a choice these people made that they are dealing with adoption at all. (The exception is birth parents who lost their children through circumstances far beyond their control.)

The vast majority of adoptees did not choose to be adopted. This decision was made for us, usually without our input or consent. But we have to live with it, every single day. We have no choice.

***

In comments sections on blog posts, I have been called “angry,” usually by adoptive parents, the implication being that if I am angry, what I have to say about adoption cannot have any merit. The implication being that only adoptees who are not angry should be taken seriously.

Yes, there are many things about adoption that make me angry. Injustice makes me angry. And this anger motivates me to continue having conversations with the non-adopted—despite how frustrating it can be—in order to help them understand what it feels like to live as an adopted person, with the hope that increasing everyone’s understanding of the realities of adoption will ultimately result in changes that will benefit future adoptees, or even eliminate the need for adoption altogether in many instances.

***

What can a non-adopted person do differently when speaking with an adoptee?

Listen more.

Do not give advice, do not explain yourself, do not critique the way we choose to express ourselves, do not question the veracity of our experiences.

Just listen.

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15 thoughts on “Talking to the Non-Adopted about Adoption

  1. Great post. I think we have to keep having these conversations. Like you said most people do not even realize we have amended birth certificates or that as soon as we turn 18 it’s not just a simple phone call to connect us to our birth families. Even as an adopted person I was pretty clueless until I decided to search. Adoption doesn’t have to define us, but like you said it never ceases to be a part of who we are. And if we don’t speak out no one will do it for us. Thank you for being a voice.

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  2. You would think people would listen to the adoptee voice more when it comes to adoption but people like their lies and if something is uncomfortable or challenging to what they thought they knew then most choose to ignore or write it off. Society is really addicted to their comforts. It’s been 12 years since I lost my firstborn son to adoption. Last year I finally started the grieving process since my dissociation was becoming too damaging to my life. Now when I talk to people about adoption I’m easily exhausted at the myths and judgement I come across. I’ve had people say all manner of cruel things to me but I keep sharing truth as well. Some people have never been challenged to really look at the subject honestly.

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  3. I just love when people tell me how wonderful it is to have been chosen….they have not clue I was only wanted as a decoration and when I no longer fit the bill I was neglected and abused….then as an adult after an eight yr relationship with my birth parents, thrown away again by my birth mother after my birth father died….this time it was not just me it was my husband and children too……not every one is adopted into the fantasy that many believe adoption is….

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  4. I’m an adoptee, so is my sister,I have a child through adoption and a child through birth.you know what? It’s ABUSE , LOSS , NEGLECT and in some cases very awful parenting that’s the problem! Not adoption! I am so horrified to hear any child adopted or not be abused! But I am soooooo tired of hearing ‘ adoption is bad’ in so many ways indirectly or otherwise. And I am also so so sick of adoptive parent bashing ( unless they really are bad and abusive in which case go ahead!) the writer of this post should never have been abused, it’s tragic and awful and it drives me crazy to hear of abuse. But adoption doesn’t equal abuse! Adoption- like marriage or birth is a typically good thing! And then some horrible *people *can make it go terribly wrong!
    Here’s the deal- I know a 30 something mom and wife of two little girls who has incurable cancer, had part of her body amputated but still the cancer is metastatic and I don’t think she will make it! Now THAT is BAD! That is awful! That is something to complain about! Just like having an ABUSIVE parent – thru adoption or birth! Complain Away! But adoption in general with out severe abuse or loss before or after the placement!? Please. If that’s a persons worst issue in life they are very lucky Bc everyone has something they must go through! Adoption is a wonderful thing in the event of bio parents being unable to parent. If abusive humans screw it up– that’s the issue! Not the way they joined the family! Or the lack of DNA similiarity!

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    1. Where did I say I was abused? Answer: I didn’t. Where did I bash adoptive parents? Answer: I didn’t. You are reading things into this post that are not there.

      You are entitled to your own opinions about adoption as an adopted person, but I am also entitled to mine. It’s not a matter of who is wrong or right. Every adoptee is entitled to evaluate his/her own adoption experience and express his/her opinion about it. I respect your right to do this, and I ask that you respect mine.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. You might want to consider reading “Adoption Therapy” before making such broad sweeping statements about the effects of adoption. Being taken from your birth mother (for any reason) is a significant trauma.

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    3. Oh please! Do not try to speak for all adoptees. Do not try to act like you understand, even though you are an adoptee. DO NOT compare adoption to a child with a terminal disease, a LOT of things are “awful”. I think what so many people fail to understand is that it’s not adoptive parent bashing, I had wonderful adoptive parents but that fact is, it’s NOT about the adoptive parents at all, it’s about the adoptee. It’s about OUR feelings, OUR loss, OUR questions that often go unanswered. If you, as an adoptee, have never had to experience the feeling of not belonging, not knowing where you came from, why were you relinquished then feel lucky. But DO NOT think that your circumstances are equal to everyone else’s. We all cope with things in different ways, please do not tell adoptees what or what not they can complain about, Abuse can come in many different forms, do not categorize everything in to one little neatly wrapped package,

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  5. I understand what Nancy is saying re abuse and cancer being the worst things imaginable, but many adoptees, (not all), but many have feelings regarding their adoption (whether is a good setting or not) that might equate to having a chronic condition you cannot shake. You might learn how to live with it, like a bad leg or lousy eyesight, but you cannot make it go away. Since feelings are invisible it’s difficult to articulate how it is to others, and it makes other people struggle to understand how our inside matters just as much as our outside / physical state. Society is much more aware of conditions like fibromyalgia and mental illnesses, and efforts are being made to increase our tolerance about people who live with constant pain or challenges with behavior and learning. I know that there are adoptees who have come from negative situations who will understandably never see the positive, and there are adoptees who come from positive home settings who still do not see the up side. We all come at this from so many angles and POVs, which makes feeling validated a huge challenge.

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts. I am always searching for adult adoptees’ writing, in hopes of preparing for whatever my kids will feel and think about their adoptions as they grow into adults. They’re young now, so this is my “learning curve” opportunity. So many books and blogs and Facebook groups are written with adoptive parents’ perspectives as the focus — I treasure the writing of adoptees.

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  7. Thanks to everyone reading, and especially to those who have left comments. I’m encouraged by so many taking the time to consider what adoptees have to say.

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  8. I very briefly had a blog about the experience of meeting my birth mother for the first time. Since the first meeting was a singular event in my life and I do not wish to share the ongoing experience of reunion with her (as it’s private and wonderful and terrifying all at the same time), the blog ended as quickly as it started. I’ve been wanting to take a more active stance in the adoptee community for some time, and it might be time for me to start working on doing that.

    In the meantime, I wanted to share an experience that I had while blogging. An adoptive mother commented on one of my posts, not to criticize me for my “anti-adoption” stance, but to agree with my standpoint that the adoptive parent can never relate to an adopted child the way that a biological parent can.

    The most important thing that the non-adopted can do is to validate our feelings and to stop talking over us, around us, or about us as though we aren’t there to hear.

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