Monday, November 30, 2009

A Reply to "Adopted People Are Not Allowed Ancestory Because It Might Upset Someone"

As always, Lorraine writes a thoughtful and incisive blog into the perilous waters we all tread if we're part of the adoption triad.

In her most recent blog,"Adopted People Are Not Allowed Ancestry Because It Might Upset Somebody" she tackles some adoptee issues spurred on by reading an article of an adoptee beginning their search for their first parents. The primary issue is how adoptees have been brainwashed by the "you should be grateful you were adopted" attitude.

I can only speak to my particular experience, but let me say that Lorraine hit the nail squarely on the head for me. I don't think that my adoptive parents ever consciously tried to imbue this upon me, but they did anyway. I was told the old rags of "you were chosen", "we chose you", "your birth mother wanted the best for you", etc. ad nauseaum. THAT'S the first layer of ingraining the adoptee into the grateful attitude. For me, the second layer was a bit more personal. My a-father would jokingly say that I was a strange looking baby; that my eyes were too close together and almost looked cross eyed. WOW! Well, gee, maybe THAT'S why my real mom didn't want me; I was too goofy looking. And then there's the third layer that the adoptee subconsciously places upon themselves that since I was chosen over all the other children that needed good homes, I need to live up to their expectations, be good, don't act out, try to be on your best behavior at all times, because you never know, they may decide they don't want you anymore and "take you back".

Many adoptees constantly lives with the sensation of never being quite good enough, never measuring up. Even after reaching adult hood over 20 years ago, I still live with this. I've made a conscious effort to try to put it aside, but the root is still there, even if the germinated flower was ripped out long ago. This feeling has lead me to destroy relationships that I cherished because I simply couldn't believe that this person saw any worth in me.

I remember when I first started my search for my first family, 20 years ago, that when I confided in my a-mom, she pointed out to me that while she couldn't stop me, that I should be considerate of my a-father's feelings; they might get hurt. I didn't want to seem disloyal, did I? (Let me say before I go any further that my a-mom is a good person, and not manipulative in any fashion. She didn't actually say the disloyal comment to me directly, but that IS how the comment came across. I KNOW she didn't mean it, but I've always been the "sensitive" child, and so took everything "too seriously".) In essence, I should make sure my a-father's feelings were considered before my own and that a grateful daughter wouldn't put him/us/me through this. They never asked me to NOT search and would tell me that they were worried for me. While they didn't have this language, they didn't want me to experience the "second rejection". I don't know how many conversations I've had with them listing the reasons why I'd rather know than not. I'd rather deal with the rejection a second time than to never know anything about where I came from. (I've always found it frustrating to try to impart this attitude to someone who isn't adopted because regardless of how eloquent I am with my words, how passionate I speak to the subject, there is NO WAY someone who isn't adopted could EVER understand. My fiance can literally trace his genealogy back to King Solomon! How blessed is THAT?!?! Yet for all his ability of being able to see both sides of an argument, this is one side he can NEVER fully comprehend.) It's only been within the last few years that my a-parents have given me their full support in my search; the clincher? Because it would be good for my mental health.


When I got my non identifying information, I was, of course, grateful. At last, I had something more than just my imagination and vague descriptions from my a-parents of what my first family is like. But something that Lorraine mentioned in her blog struck me like a blow. In my non-id, there is a statement about my first mother; "she is described as being 'unusually pretty'". I remember staring at those words til I thought the ink would fade out. "unusually pretty". That's WONDERFUL! Maybe I wasn't the ugly duckling I'd always feared I'd continue to be! If she was pretty at 17, then at 19 I had HOPE!

Now, I look back on that and think, "ohmygod! What was I THINKING?!?!" Is THAT all they gave me?!?! The most I have ever been GIVEN was this! But I was the grateful bastard, well trained to be thankful for any drib or drab that was given to me.

Lorraine wrote, "I guess it's that last bit that would kill me if I were on the adopted side of this painful process called adoption. Upturned nose? Pretty? Engaging smile? I think I would start looking at every face in the supermarket all over again, trying to figure out if upturned noses fall with age (they do) and wonder how "pretty" looks at say, sixty, seventy, or so, to judge from the career choice of her first mother--data processing, the precursor to computers."

Oh Lorraine! You don't know how right you are! I've spent my entire LIFE looking for someone that looked like me, my mother, a sister, maybe even an effeminate brother? Do I even HAVE siblings? To this DAY I still look at strangers and wonder if I'm related to them. I can't help it. I ask random people when I find out their last names are either Williams or Hernandez if they had anyone in their family that gave a child up for adoption. How pathetic is that?

When all is said and done, adopted is who I am, a part of me that no one can ever take back or change. The damage is done, so to speak. All I can do is deal with the boat load of issues given to me by people who tried to love me the best they could.


  1. By the time I got done reading I had tears in my eyes, even though I ought to be inured by now. Thanks for writing, thanks for telling me I got it right because I was hesitant to wade into that territory of gratefulness, coming from the other side of the equation.

    If enough people keep screaming that this secrecy is wrong, the doors will open. I believe it.

  2. I'm glad you posted your feelings about this, Lorraine; it gave me a platform to work with on issues within myself that I didn't realize were there. I'm grateful for all the work you've done on behalf of adoption reform and opening OBCs. By your strength, and the strength of everyone working towards what is good and right and OPEN, I hope to add my tiny voice to the ROAR that is the outrage of adoptees and first mothers everywhere.