"Adoptees suffer many ambiguities in adoption - the loss of mother, father, family, history, ancestors, identity, medical history,birth place, time and date, rights as a citizen, legitimacy and often country, culture, language, food, religion and those subtle things which help us identify with our motherland (the sights, sounds, smells, animals, birds and geology, the lie of the land)...."
Over at my old blog Once Was Von: Surviving, Learning, Laughing. Those of us who struggle for existence, who fight for our place at the table and find every battle is hard-won often manage to use that experience in a productive way, it gives us insight and if we’re lucky, empathy and compassion. Those things are irreplaceable in what some would call ‘the conduct of human affairs’ but I call living. Those opportunities don’t come to all: trauma, pain, suffering, loss are potential human experiences but are not visited on all, as they are on most adoptees. Like oysters we can produce pearls of wisdom, of understanding and develop an ability to empathise with other adoptees which is beyond price. No-one ‘gets it’ like another adoptee even when they’re not reading off the same page
And of course as we discovered this week over at the Facebook Group Occupy Adoption, sometimes Not!
It all began with a quote from adopter and psychologist Dr Whitten. This quote – “It’s important to keep in mind that adoption is not abnormal, nor should discussions about it be stressful for adoptive parents.” Really the point was about the ‘normality’ of adoption and the way in which many involved in Big Adoption like to push the idea that adoption is normal, a valid way to build a family; that adoptees are just like any other kids in families and there is nothing for adopters or prospective adopters or hoping to adopters, the AP/PAP/HAP’s, to be worried or concerned about! To promote those ideas is misleading, inaccurate and mischievous.
Here’s why. There is nothing normal about a child being removed from a mother, being abandoned by a mother or being given for adoption by a mother. Big Adoption has worked for decades on making it seem normal, accepted and a good way to build a family. It appears that this view is now so accepted that those in certain forums are castigated for supporting women who wish to raise their babies following an unplanned pregnancy! Now that is weird! In some circles it seems to have become more important to keep the adoption market supplied with babies than it is to preserve families, support biological connections and ensure that children know their identities and histories and don’t suffer loss and trauma!
I’ve had a few messages and queries lately about Pauline Boss’s work on ambiguous loss which I mention anywhere and everywhere, because I believe it is an essential piece of reading for anyone who has anything to do with adoption in any way. For those involved in therapies, counselling or working with adoptees and mothers, the concept of ambiguous loss makes sense of what has happened and what needs to happen. Loss, as we keep being informed by the ‘experts’ can be healed, and so it can with skilled help and work. Ambiguous loss on the other hand, which is present in mothers and adoptees cannot be healed, has no closure, but can be dealt with, lived with and managed productively if it is recognised and the tools to handle it used effectively.
We see time and time again, mothers going round in circles, over and over their decision, their loss and their tragedy when they chose adoption or were forced to choose adoption. There are many blogs in which the same story is told, retold endlessly, without resolution, because ambiguous loss has not be acknowledged or accepted and guilt, pain and regret take the upper hand. These mothers and many others like them, never appear to fully get on with their lives, some of them appear not to want to, because there is a benefit in retelling the story over and over and the concentration on this episode in their lives is tragic and deeply saddening. Those adoptees who tell us they found a mother in reunion who had discovered a way to get on with her life were gladdened, relieved and often found reunion went more smoothly and was more lasting. When ambiguous loss is dealt with it provides a much sounder base for a reunion which has some chance of enduring, proving of benefit to all and establishing family connections that were broken.
For adoptees, there is much ambiguous loss in adoption. Loss also, but it is not enough just to deal with the losses. We need to front up to that which is ambiguous, has no resolution but often it appears is helped by the acknowledgement that ambiguity exists. For instance in other situations where a loved family member is missing those remaining are helped by recognising that their loved one may be dead and never return but at the same time holding the thought that there still may be hope that one day there may be a change of some sort. Those relatives of victims of 9/11 dealt with the ambiguity of not having a body to bury by having a funeral or ceremony in which an object symbolic of the person was buried or cremated. Individual rituals were invented which had meaning for the families and we can take a lesson from that in adoption.
Our mothers send us off into an unknown world with strangers and usually have no knowledge of how we are treated, how we survived of if we did survive. They mourn with no body to view, no grave to visit or information to calm or comfort them. It is too big an ask and is often no better dealt with today than it was in other eras of adoption, sometimes it’s worse and even less humane.
Adoptees suffer many ambiguities in adoption – the loss of mother, father, family, history, ancestors, identity, medical history,birth place, time and date, rights as a citizen, legitimacy and often country, culture, language, food, religion and those subtle things which help us identify with our motherland (the sights, sounds, smells, animals, birds and geology, the lie of the land). Many of us have no way of discovering that information and it is lost, as we are lost, in the limboland that is adoption. We never know if it will be possible to recover that information; those who have little reason to hope, cling to any vestige of optimism, knowing in their hearts that the chances are so slight as to be a miracle if it were to happen. That is not curiosity about our beginnings, as non-adoptees would have us believe and convince themselves and others, because it is safer, easier and less threatening. That is ambiguous loss asserting itself and wanting to be dealt with.
With the Indian Adoption Projects, they had a goal - assimilation. Removing us from our families would ultimately remove our culture and language. But adoption never erases our blood... Trace