Please Don’t Celebrate My Adoption

Today begins National Adoption Month, an initiative originally intended to raise awareness of the thousands of U.S. children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted because they cannot be reunified with their biological families.

The first day of this month is barely half over, and already I’ve seen joyous proclamations of “Happy National Adoption Month!” and “Celebrate National Adoption Month!”

This month is no holiday, people, especially not for those of us who are adopted.

Sure, I can imagine that if I had been in foster care for a number of years and had longed for a permanent home, I might be celebrating my adoption. Adoption can be a very good thing in those cases in which there is a definite need for a child to have stability and an adult in his life who can be counted on.

But even in those necessary cases of adoption, let’s not forget that a child has also lost just as much as she’s gained. Being in a position of needing to be adopted is not something anyone would wish for. It means that you’re separated from the very people nature intended you to be with. It means you lost your parents, one way or another, even if you’re still in contact with them on any kind of basis.

If a child’s parents died, we would not expect him to celebrate. If a child’s parents divorced and one parent was no longer involved in that child’s day-to-day life, we would not expect him to celebrate.

Yes, there may be positive aspects to an adoption, however all adoptions begin with a significant loss for the child.

Raising awareness of the needs of children in foster care is a worthy goal. Let’s not confuse that goal with trying to paint an unrealistically rainbow-covered picture of adoption.

Let’s also not forget that many adoptees, like myself, were never in need the way children in foster care waiting to be adopted are in need. Many adoptees, especially those adopted as infants, lost their parents due to circumstances that could have been prevented. Many adoptees did have other family members who could have raised them. Many adoptees did not need to be separated from their biological relatives.

For this reason, I ask you to please not celebrate my adoption. There are few things worse than the unnecessary loss of one’s family.

 

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25 thoughts on “Please Don’t Celebrate My Adoption

  1. I was diagnosed this year with complex ptsd and ego states dissociative disorder (you will have to look those up) and came close to depersonalizing. This was caused by losing my mother at an hour old, being adopted by a narcissistic father and a passive mother, and then going on to marry a man who was a narcissist who abused me emotionally and sexually. My mother was shamed for being pregnant and forced to relinquish me for adoption. It was hardly a choice.

    I know that adoption is not a nightmare for everyone, but it has been a nightmare for me. And I WILL survive it because my track record has been 100 percent so far. Am I angry…yes I am. Anger is a God-given emotion, and finally I deserve to feel my anger and sadness and joy at knowing the truth to my very own life.

    We all deserve that. And once we have fully mourned and fully grieved we can no doubt heal…that is my future, and I am claiming it today!

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  2. I disagree. My kids had a very traumatic life before adoption. They grieve the loss of their birth family openly and often. But that doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate their new life with us. This November 22nd is 1 year we were legally made a family. They would be crushed if we didn’t celebrate that… Being a foster/ adopted kid myself. I would have hated it if my family (who had 6 bio kids of their own) didn’t recognize my entering the family. Interestingly enough…my kids and I HATE celebrating our Birthdays. Those are the days we feel bad and would rather not have celebrations.

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    1. Monica, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I understand why you and your children would want to celebrate the occasions of joining your new families, and I think that’s fine. No one can speak on behalf of all adoptees, myself included, because we’ve experienced adoption so many different ways. My post is specifically addressing National Adoption Month and is intended to give voice to those of us who do not have much reason to celebrate our adoptions. With all the shouting of “celebrate!” and “be happy!” this month, our voices tend to get lost. However, I would not want to drown out your voice either. I’m glad you left a comment here.

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  3. As a birth mother who was forced to relinquish her newborn at almost 17 years of age, I can tell you that the trauma of the separation goes both ways. I silently and privately grieved without resolution for many, many years. Yet, I hope that my son’s parents celebrated his joining their family. His birthday, for me, was such a sad day. I wished for him that all his special days, accomplishments, and milestones were celebrated with gusto. We met 12 years ago, just after my own mother died. He was an only child and his mother had died a couple of years earlier. I am grateful every day to be so blessed, and I am beyond thankful to his mother for being there for him. I can’t begin to explain how much I appreciate that she was there for him when I couldn’t be.

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  4. I am 55 years old and adopted as a infant after spending 5 months in foster care. My adoptive family is wonderful, but I recently decided to search for my mother to try and find out about myself and what happened. I found her and I found out the story. She was married to a wealthy man and had an affair. I was not her husbands’s baby and DNA testing has proven this to be true. She gave me up because she wanted to keep “her man” whom she divorced anyway and then remarried 20 years later. I learned that she gave up another child (same story) and kept her third child, whom she gave the same name that she gave me, I feel very unimportant to my biological mother. I’m glad in a way that she gave me up, but the angst I feel about it is no cause for celebration.

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  5. I appreciate your voice and your story. As the adoptive dad of two girls (sisters), I celebrate my family and the joy they have brought. They have no memory of their birth parents, and their removal was necessary as both parents had long criminal and drug histories.

    Nevertheless, I’ve often thought about the sadness and loss of the parents, particularly the mother. She had lots of issues, but that doesn’t make her a monster. She lost her babies to “the system” and my girls lost people who they should know. I have no doubt that they are better off and safer with their lives, but to deny that it comes with a price to all involved (except the adoptive parents) is to be willfully blind to reality.

    Your voice is important. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Robert, I appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts. I would caution you, though, on the idea that your children have no memory of their birth parents. Yes, very young children often do not retain conscious memories of things that happened during their first few years. However, the effects of those experiences do stay with them, even if they do not have words to speak about them or cannot conjure a clear recollection of a particular event or person. No matter what behavior their birth parents participated in, they are still their parents. Do not forget either that losing our parents is only one part of our total loss as adoptees. Often times, losing our parents also means losing everyone who is biologically related to us, losing our connection with our ancestry, and even losing our original names. These are tremendous losses. I would like to see adoption evolve so that these types of losses could be mitigated as often as possible.

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      1. Thanks for the reply. My children do not have recollection of their birth parents because they were removed immediately and placed in foster care. The mother was in jail when the oldest was born, and then, based on the parents’ history, the younger was also removed immediately at the time of birth.

        I agree that these are losses that need to be understood and honored. I’m open to being educated and to engage in discussion. I am finding that there are a lot of assumptions that adoptive parents and adoptees jump to in these discussions– seems like everyone wants to compare each situation to their own– when in fact each situation is unique.

        How do you think these losses could be mitigated? I intend to introduce my children to their birth families at some point when they are old enough. Do you think that’s a good idea? Thanks.

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  6. Thank you for your article. I feel the same about my adoption and I am not looking forward to November 9th when people celebrate families created through adoption. There seems to be no acknowledgement that loss is at the root of every adoption and while adopters happiness at the creation of their new family seems natural, there is a nasty hubris for those that want to ignore the initial loss.

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  7. As an adoptee (private) who is now adopting (through foster care), I celebrate adoption and all that it means to me. November is a month where I can make others aware…educate them and bombard them with social media, but the truth of the matter is the people we do life closely with are the ones that are impacted by adoption (and therefore sometimes moved to do something about it).

    I wholeheartedly can see where you’re coming from. I’m kind of there myself. But now that I’ve seen the other side…the side where…people have been changed by this world…this adoptive world. It’s a complete mindset change. People aren’t afraid to adopt anymore!

    When I was a kid, I was told, “You don’t need to tell anyone you’re adopted,” as if it was something to be kind of ashamed of…to now, it’s so fun. There’s a story. There’s rescue involved. And thought there’s hurt and loss…I feel like it makes the redeeming part so much more meaningful.

    But that’s just me. I love that we can voice our stories now. I love my story, even though there’s great loss. My kids (17, 8, & 3) all have such different stories, but it all comes down to us choosing them…And yet, somehow…I feel like they chose me.

    And so – I will keep celebrating the adoption of myself and my three loves. And I will understand when/if someone else doesn’t want to celebrate. Hopefully an understanding filled with grace is there to catch us when we don’t feel like celebrating or watching it all go down…

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  8. I can celebrate my families without celebrating adoption, and that is what I choose to do. The family I grew up with is wonderful people that I have nothing in common with but history. The family I met a few years ago (my first mother’s) is so much like me but we share no history. The family I physically resemble I don’t know at all (my biological father’s).

    Adoption is complicated, and I rarely find complication worth celebrating. Acknowledging, yes. Celebrating? Not so much.

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  9. I appreciate this writer’s perspective, but my perspective on my adoption is very different. I was adopted as an infant, as was my brother, to a loving home filled with laughter. My adoption was dealt with frankly and openly. I can’t speak for my brother, but for me, the adoption story is just the “meet cute” of our family and has little to do with how I lead my life in a big picture or day-to-day way. One of my least favorite questions to be asked is if I ever want to meet my “real” parents. My response is always the same. I know my real parents. They raised me. My biological parents don’t hold the allure for me that they may hold for others. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve never encountered another adoptive person outside of television who was on a search for his or her biological parents. But, I digress. My point is that just like every person is different, every adoption is different. I never thought that I’d be “better off” with my biological parents or family. I never felt a loss from not having them in my life. I feel so grateful for my biological mother giving my parents and myself the greatest gift we’ve ever received. Mine isn’t a case of death, or divorce, or anything else but a decision to put a baby’s future first. What little I know of my birth mother, she was young and not in a position to raise a child. So she did the most wonderful thing: she gave me my family. I’ve had amazing opportunities because of them. I’ve felt incredible support and love. I got my crazy sense of humor. My thirst for knowledge was nurtured and I went to a top-class college and on to law school. I enjoyed family vacations and I never wanted for anything. Still, I was taught to appreciate what I had and the importance of giving back. I became the person I am today because I was adopted. And for those reasons, I celebrate my adoption.

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