Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Adoptee Feelings are a Reflection of their Experience--Not a Judgement of Others

In the community that I grew up in, there were a lot of stereotypes about unwed mothers and adoption.  In my journey, I've noticed that there are a lot of adoptees who encountered those same stereotypes and there are some who have not.  Of course, the people I've met are not necessarily a representation of what  the majority of adoptees think, it does provide me with insight as to what stereotypes and issues adoptees may encounter.

I recently read one adult adoptee's amazing blog about the struggles of being adopted.  Somewhere in the comments section, it was suggested to him that his adoptive family would be offended by his feelings.  Later, someone suggested that his original mother would be offended of his adoption-specific feelings of ambivalence.

I think part of the disconnect is that some people may not be recognizing that adoptees have their own experience within adoption.  We are not merely an addition to someone elses' experience in adoption.  With a unique experience in adoption comes a perspective that other individuals with different roles in the adoption system may not have.

I think it is very good to encourage empathy and understanding with others.  But there's a difference between encouraging empathy and telling someone their feelings are invalid because of how someone else feels.  I know my original mother has experienced adoption-related pain.  I also know that part of my hurt is knowing that she hurts; she is my mother and I love her.

I remember one of the first things an adoptive family member said to me, they specifically called me to tell me this, when they found out I was seeking reunion was to be sensitive to my parent's feelings.  I don't think anyone can really understand how hard it is to embark on reunion and then to have others enforce the concept of eggshell walking.  At times, I felt like my personal journey was more about making sure everyone else was OK than it was about me.

I will always encourage my children to share whatever they're feeling with me, even if it hurts my feelings, so that I can be there for them.  I hope that no one would ever discourage them from that.


Linda said...

Yes- the eggshell walking. In my experience, and in most of the adoptees I know, we have walked on eggshells our entire lives.

We hide our feelings/pain from our ap's, because we don't want to hurt them. Then, we hide our feelings/pain from our fp's, because we dont want to hurt them. Then, reunion and dealing with the feelings of BOTH sets of parents, it's eggshell walking again.

Many adoptees are so busy protecting everyone else's feelings, ours sometimes get overlooked.

Allison said...

Is it any wonder why it's so tough to be ourselves and to be authentic? We are required NOT TO BE. Not just for our AP's and FP's, but for society to feel comfortable with continuing on believing the adoption is wonderful lie.

Mei Ling said...


From the moment I decided to search, many outsiders to adoption were careful to remind me of my adoptive parents' feelings, and to be prepared for rejection.

ms. marginalia said...

Yes, yes, yes!

The eggshell walking and having everyone's first question be "How do your parents feel about this?" is terrible. How can people even begin to think I am so cavalier about how my aparents feel, and even if they do care, isn't this *my* journey? I expect this from my extended afamily, of course, but not from supposed friends.

It degenerates so quickly when it becomes a pain contest. There is no contest! It sucks for all of us! Why can we not accept this and try to support each other?

I get sick of people making excuses for my nmom, as well. Do they truly believe that I have hurting her high on my agenda of things to do? No. I am sorry that she isn't open to me and that talking to me causes her pain. But she is not the only variable in this equation, no matter how much she might believe otherwise.

Why is it all about me taking care of *them*? It's frustrating, to say the least.

Reena said...

I think people often forget that every child in a family (regardless of how the family is formed) has a different experience growing-up.

This is very true, I think, for people involved with adoption-- adoption effects everyone differently-- the First Parents, the child, and the adoptive parents.

Everyone is entitled to their own feelings and those feelings should not be invalidated by others suggesting that the expression of those feelings may hurt someone else's feelings.

I really don't get why people seem to make it some kind of love contest between the First Family and the adoptive family. We, people in general, are more than capable of caring and loving for more than one person.

Why is it so hard to translate that to the ability to love one's First Mom/Family without diminishing the love felt for the amom/family? Why do people seem to view it as being mutually exclusive?

I don't ever want my daughters to feel they have to walk on eggshells around me.