Thanks-Giving Item #5 Having my eyes opened about adoption

ImageChef.comMy grandmother used to say – It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow somebody some good.

I’m not sure why that saying came into my head. I think because I am writing about how, when you have a reunion, you just may find out some things that you really didn’t want to know about adoption. But, in the end, that is probably a good thing.

I think most birth mothers were hoping to find a happy, healthy, well-loved child who lived the life that they had been told their child would lead.

Someone who, with their family, respected and honoured the decision that the Mom had made. People who appreciated it.

Unfortunately, in lots of cases, that is not what happened. We had our eyes opened.

So why is it good to know these things?

It’s good because adoption was existing in a fairytale world. Some people are still trying to keep it that way.

But changing the course of a child’s life is not something that should be done based on gossamer threads of spun sugar mythology. It should be done with full knowledge of the potential consequences for everyone involved. Not just the joy that adoption will bring to adoptive parents.

I don’t want to spend too much time on this because it is not a particularly happy place to go but still – I am glad I went there. I am glad I came out of the adoption fog. I know what’s what.

I posted the little piece below when my blog was very new, about a week old, so some people may not have read it.

It’s all about how adoption reunion raises adoptive parents’ understanding of the issues of adoption. That is, of course, if they are willing to meet their children’s mothers and keep their minds open. And how that is sometimes unsettling for them.

Here’s the story about the study:

Raising Awareness of Adoption Practices

Many participants found themselves revisiting their “naive understanding of what adoption was and what being an adoptive family was going to be like” when they first adopted, as one adoptive father put it. As this participant suggested, many adoptive parents did not understand adoption as being anything other than a form of creating a family. Hence, at reunion, when faced with their fear of losing their child, their struggle with entitlement, and the reawakening of earlier losses, many adoptive parents experienced a sense of despair and confusion but also an emerging awareness that they were, in fact, part of something much bigger than they initially believed. That is, although reprocessing of certain adoption issues continued at a personal level, approximately two thirds of our sample also found themselves becoming more cognizant of the contextual factors surrounding adoption practice at the time of adoption and currently.

Some participants suggested that they were ill prepared, if at all, for the issues they faced as adoptive parents—namely, the issues that emerged as their children negotiated identity in late adolescence and participated in reunion. Robinson (2000), in her discussion of adoption and loss, stated that in more recent times, both birth and adoptive parents consider that they were “duped by a legislative system which guaranteed adoption would provide the answer to their problems but did not address the core psychological issues that adoption could not resolve and which it is now seen to have created” (p. 162).

Certainly, this subgroup of participants would concur with this position.

In addition, participants found themselves questioning the messages about adoptive parents and the nature of adoption. As one mother expressed,

“Suddenly I become a stealer of babies. I did not steal anyone’s baby. I do not want to be and I do not deserve to be put in a position where I have to justify my relationship with my daughter. I did nothing wrong but to be cursed with infertility. I am not a bad person, and yet I am made to feel that wanting a child and loving her makes me a criminal.”

In writing on adoption ethics, Jordan (1997) argued that social discourse on adoptive parenting and the sanctioning of one parent as true or real (i.e., the birth parent as the real, natural parent) creates a win or lose contest with significant emotional consequences for adoptees, their adoptive parents, and birth parents. As suggested by the mother in the previous quote, no one actually wins this contest. Rather, setting up either party as good or bad only maintains the pain.
Generally, however, the majority of participants found themselves becoming more aware of issues to do with relinquishment, the sociopolitical context in which it occurred, and the personal issues faced by birth parents. However, the effect of this burgeoning awareness and empathy was not always greater resolution or clarity. In fact, many participants reported greater confusion and dissonance in trying to make sense of their own responses to the reunion process. (Emphasis added)

One participant described feeling “split.” She explained that she had experienced a surge of fear and anxiety and strongly questioned her role, contribution, and worth as a mother. She had been forced to face issues she thought she had “finished with.” Simultaneously, she found herself feeling compassion and empathy for birth families and facing their needs with the same interest with which she faced her own.


The Experience of Adoptive Parents in Adoption Reunion Relationships: A Qualitative Study
Gabrielle A. Petta, MPsych, and Lyndall G. Steed, MPsych, PhD Curtin University of Technology
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry Copyright 2005 by the Educational Publishing Foundation
2005, Vol. 75, No. 2, 230 –241


2 Responses to Thanks-Giving Item #5 Having my eyes opened about adoption

  1. joy21 says:

    I am still trying to decide if I like having my eyes open, adoption brings to light a side of human nature that isn’t too pretty.

What Do You Think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: