I met Dave, a fellow adoptee, on the phone the other day. He was telling me about himself and his work, and mentioned that while growing up, he always felt like the odd one out in his family.
“I’m adopted,” he confided, then explained he doesn’t know how much of his talents and skills to ascribe to nature and how much are the result of nurture.
“I’m adopted too!” I said, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically for a new acquaintance, but he didn’t seem to mind. For each of us, it was like finding a member of our tribe amid a world of strangers. There was no need to explain the lifelong “nature/nurture” wondering, feeling like the odd one out, or anything else. We knew exactly what the other meant.
Too bad it’s not the same when we speak to the rest of the world.
This is National Adoption Month.
All over the Internet adoptive parents and their supporters are celebrating their good fortune with abandon. Yet, as is so often the case, adoptees like Dave and me have been left out of the conversation.
On its Facebook page last week, Hearts for Open Adoption posted a treacly meme about how adoption isn’t about giving up anything or anyone, not for first mothers or adoptive parents. The post went on at length about the love these two pieces of the adoption triad give and receive, but didn’t — ahem — mention adoptees.
So I posted a reply that read, “What about us adoptees? I would argue we give up quite a bit, actually.”
I was prepared to launch a dialogue about our missing identities and medical information, about our lifelong searches to figure out where we fit, and about how many of us are never able to figure it out … or else learn in the end we don’t truly fit anywhere, and must try to make peace with forever standing alone.
But I didn’t get the chance. No one replied or attempted to engage me.
No surprise. I’m only an adoptee, a forever child meant to be quietly grateful for my circumstance and to never question or wonder.
We may indeed be grateful to have had pleasant childhoods and supportive families, but really, the matter is much more complicated than that.
Again and again, society’s message to us is that it is somehow wrong to want to know who we are. We are admonished to consider everyone else’s feelings before our own, to leave well enough alone, lest we upset our adoptive parents or our natural families.
(Time and again when I was searching for my first mother, people would ask, sotto vocce, “But what about her privacy? What about your adoptive parents?” I bit my tongue every time rather than shout, “But what about me?!)
Still, most everyone takes for granted their ability to know their true self. How can we adoptees possibly overlook the absence of that knowledge and understanding for ourselves?
Why should we have to?