It’s National Adoption Awareness Month — the time when I and other adoptees work even harder then usual to dispel all the myths and misconceptions around what it’s like to be adopted.
For reasons I’ll never understand, non-adopted people seem to feel they have license to weigh in on the adoptee experience. In my 52 years, I’ve heard any number of ridiculous comments about how I should feel to have been adopted. “Grateful” ranks up there (that pronouncement is often chased with a solemn comment about how glad I must be to have not been aborted. I’ve started to respond to that one with, “I’ll bet you’re grateful you weren’t aborted, too.”).
But my all-time favorite is how “lucky” I am to have been adopted — the idea being I needed a leg up in the world.
Yes, how lucky I am to have been relinquished and raised without any biological relatives, always wondering why I was given away (and whether it’s because there’s something wrong with me). Lucky to have my original identity erased by the State of New York. So very lucky to not be allowed to know where I came from, who I look like, my medical history and anything else that might provide clues to my authentic self. (Unless I were to break all the rules and find out on my own as I did a few years ago.)
“Lucky” is precisely the word we should use to describe the experience, don’t you think?
Here are others, from some of the more than 100 adoptees I spoke to for the book I’m writing about the adoptee experience:
“It’s like having only one leg. You can’t walk with one leg. There’s something missing that doesn’t make you a whole person.”
“I remember lots of conversations revolving around what a selfless person my birth mother must have been. I put her on a pedestal growing up. But on the other hand, I felt pain from an early age about being given away. I always had an inner conflict. My birth mother was the most generous person in the world, but there was sadness over why I wasn’t kept.”
“In junior high, I started to question, ‘Who am I? Why was I not wanted?’ It was a hard emotional time for me.”
“I truly felt that adoption meant that I was unlovable.”
“I feel pain every day related to my adoption experience and it makes me sad. I have shame about my pain and I don’t like showing people that. It’s exhausting to paste on a smile. I don’t have any best friends. I have to force myself to go out.”
“Inside I didn’t feel special and chosen. And I didn’t like myself because I didn’t understand why I didn’t feel that way when my mind had been told all those years that I was. It caused me to self-degrade myself. Why couldn’t I get this together? Why couldn’t I feel what I’d been told?”
“I shut down and withdrew, especially around age 7 when I realized I had been abandoned. I thought there was something wrong with me. I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I kind of felt like an alien.”
“I spent days in my bedroom crying, trying to understand why I was rejected.”
So freakin’ lucky, don’t you think?
I was adopted at birth in 1967, my brother was adopted in 1968. We were like Irish twins, joined at the hip. He was my brother. He took his life in 2015 and this is what someone said to me “could you imagine if he was your blood, I am sure this would hurt so much more” I think my heart stopped!
I’m so sorry. That is horrifying.
I am assuming yours was a voluntary adoption, as you were lead to believe how unselfish your birth mother was.
Today that does not happen, as 96% of adoptions are effectively forced, either by court order or forced consent on threat of court order.
As effectively the only babies now available are those in care or under threat of care.
So now a child will think their Mum / Dad was so inadequate, neglectful/abusive that they had to be removed, this may surely affect a person’s self worth and belief in their own genetic material and their own parenting skills.
Adoption has been termed a Primal Wound and deracinates so must be taken seriously .
Best Wishes Finola Moss
I feel lucky but disconnected. What I don’t like is someone telling me how I should feel. I also reserve the right to change my feelings at any given moment. :). Looking forward to the book Terri.
I had to click through to your article to figure out what the “L” word was. I’ve never thought of adoptees as lucky. I recall learning that one of my friends growing up had been adopted, and I was surprised. As an adult, I had another friend adopt a little boy, and I felt more excited for her than her son…she had lost her husband in a tragic accident, had not been remarried, and still wanted to have a child to love and care for. Adoptees do get a tough situation…tougher than most, because it cuts to the core of their identity. I think the important thing is for people who have been adopted (or anyone really) to figure out their purpose in life and what to do with the life they have. Thanks for making it easier for non-adoptees to know how to approach a sensitive subject.
I see you are in America. In the UK, children are taken from their mothers, sometimes straight from the hospital after birth and forcibly adopted against their parents will. Social Workers get an Order from a Judge in a secret Court. The same thing happens with older children too, and often for the flimsiest of reasons. Or families are accused of abuse only to be found the children have a genetic illness that causes bones to break easily. Even with that proof, innocent parents never get to see their children again. They fight on, brokenhearted. They never wanted to give their children up. If you search for Forced Adoption is Wicked, you will see many such stories.
They obviously don’t understand how the families feel of the there children via forced adoptions. The endless heart ache that you cannot prove hearings have happened in the absence of parents or not partied and saying different on papers for eg
Parents didn’t turn up in courts
They gave consent
They were both legally represented etc etc. Yr comments make a lot of sense!
Except that’s far from the truth,stealing babies from labour wards and schools and Homes .
Reblogged this on Site Title and commented:
Some truth behind adoptions, some are not as lucky 🍀 as people often think.
Thank you for posting. This describes much of my adoptee experience also.
Sent from my iPhone
I don’t really believe when people say you’re lucky, they’re describing the entirety of the experience.
I think what they’re trying to do is point out the silver lining in having been chosen, and taken out of the system. The people I know who grew up in the system because “nobody ever wanted them” at birth or afterwards are much worse off than the people I know who were adopted. One adopted friend told me, she felt very lucky to be adopted by her gay (male) parents and that being raised by two dads was hilarious. My adopted cousin, on the other hand, remained a troubled child all the way into adulthood.
That said, people process situations differently based on their personality and how they are subsequently raised. I don’t believe it’s for me to tell someone else how they should or should not feel about their situation. To those who feel lucky, kudos. To those who do not, I hope it gets easier.
I have a problem with the word luck applied to me, but for different reasons. People tend to look at my life and where I am and attribute my good grades (back in school days), exceptional mental stability (I grew up in an abusive household, so everyone expects me to be half mad, I guess), and my current successes to luck, instead of hard work and sacrifice. That….drives me up a wall.
Maybe we should just do away with the word “luck” 😂
I can’t wait to read your work! My book is finally out.
Lucky is a word I normally associate with drawings and lotteries. I guess it could apply to a child that is born into that perfect family with two functioning adults, wonderful siblings, supportive extended family, and a nice bank account to support a good lifestyle. But, I think most of us are born into the real world and are left to develop strength and fortitude so we can choose to sink or swim. I wish peace to each adoptee, their biological family, and their adopted family. But, peace is like all other things in life, we have to find it for ourselves because there are many stories, reasons, and lives involved. Best to you and yours as you research and write.
Reblogged this on One Woman's Choice and commented:
Very much looking forward to your important book.