Adoptee Psychology, Genetics, the Unnatural Act of Adopting and Questions for Adoptive Parents

Today’s post was inspired by a blog post I read this morning and by an occurrence at a dinner party. Since I’m not feeling particularly “put together” at the moment, this post may be choppy and disjointed.

I’d like to direct my readers to Rhode Island adoptee John Greene’s blog post titled “Adoption and The Adoptees Reality” in which he addresses some points of specific psychology of being adopted. The topic needs to be understood, not just by adoptees, but by adoptive and pre-adoptive parents, especially in the wake of NCFA’s recent call for money donations to “make adoption strong” to fight the anti-adoption community and NPR’s Scott Simon’s two NPR interviews on his recently published memoir on being the adoptive father of two girls from China here (224 comment to date) and here (34 comments to date).

John Greene notes the works of three American adoption researchers: Nancy Verrier (The Primal Wound), Betty Jean Lifton, PhD (Journey of the Adopted Self), and Dr. David Brodzinsky (The Lifelong Journey to Self). It is best to read their works for a more complete study.

John Greene asks the question:

“How does the adopted individual feel about being relinquished?”

I believe that the average pre-adoptive and adoptive parent does not delve into this question, for if they did, they might find the answers disturbing enough to think twice about adoption in a positive light. If adoptive and pre-adoptive parents take a hard look at the realities of adoption, they may not think adoption was such a great and wonderful “thing” they have done, or want to do.

I’ll make a side journey here to what happened at a dinner party I attended last week. A guest, whom I did not know, remarked that so-and-so was adopting another child — from the same birthmother. The assumption from the folks hearing such a comment was the (tired) refrain “how wonderful of you to adopt, again!” At which point I almost spewed the food I was chewing. No one else but my date and the hostess knew that I was adopted and reunited since 1974, but, despite this, the hostess continued blathering on praising adoption while my date and I were wide-eyed. I gulped my food down and stuffed down my feelings. I kept quiet, realizing that no amount of talking would help these clueless people know the true meaning of adoption to the children involved. If I had “opened my mouth” and spoke truthfully about adoption, my comments would have been seen as hostile and a verbal fight would have ensued. So, the only way for me to deal with yet another instance of praise for adoption while ignoring adoptee and natural parent pain was for me to ignore the immediacy of the moment and write about it here.

This is where I beg adoptive and pre-adoptive parents to listen and read what grown adoptees and adoption researchers are saying. Take a long look at the devastating effects of adoption and know what you are doing to your adoptee! You may not intentionally be causing your adoptee harm, but the very fact of being an adoptee sets a person up for emotional and physical trauma.

John Greene explains:

…Is it nature or nurture that composes him/her? Adoptees ponder relentlessly whether their true “self” derives from their nature, the traits and characteristics they are born with; or from nurture as a result of the adoptive environment they are enveloped within. Traditionally the concept of nature or nurture is viewed as if it’s one transitioning into the other, or if one has more influence than the other. I feel these perspectives are the wrong approach. I sense with the adoptee world it’s nature and nurture continually working symbiotically with one another.

…non-adoptees are able to see and learn their biological nature in action from their parents and other genetic family. While the non-adoptees are nurturing and developing/ thriving within their natural environment they are also learning and governed by the family’s biological nature. …this is the element of true balance of nature and nurture an adoptee is deprived of and most likely will never come to have the opportunity to appreciate. It is the adoptee’s elusive biological nature the adoptee subconsciously chases. It is the adoptee’s biological nurture that eludes the adoptee consciously.

Then Greene eloquently states what so many of us adoptees feel but may not be able to verbalize:

Adoption, although genuinely intended to provide a better life, or better nurturing environment, in its raw form, in the scheme of nature itself, is an unnatural act and from the unnatural act the adoptee is presumed to resiliently bounce back.

…the adoptee is resilient but this experience isn’t something they bounce back from, the separation is a “splitting” from their natural biological connection in which they grow away from, meaning they are not intended to return to grow and thrive from their point of origin. Again, the issue isn’t so much about the resiliency of adoptees bouncing back, but more so, that they are torn away from their natural connection in which they aren’t intended to return, leaving them with a mysterious unexplainable feeling of not feeling whole. More specifically, the unexplainable feeling of not feeling whole not only stays with the adoptee it is actually the desire to feel whole, or complete. (identity)

What Greene writes next is so very important:

Technically speaking, adoptees don’t bounce back they are forced to grow in a different direction without a biological connection, away from their true biological nature. Therefore it can be said that when they are separated their nature and nurture are divided as they are forced to enter to live in their new adoptive world now consisting of nurture and unnatural. Their new balance is no longer the black and white of yin and yang representing a true balance of nature and nurture but is now say a white and green yin & yang representing an off kilter version of what the natural self is intended to be as it’s being shaped by a biological force that is unnatural and foreign to the adopted child.

The adoptee struggles for the rest of her/his life to bring the forces of nurture and unnatural together:

…the adoptee spends the greatest and most influential part of their life living within the ‘nurture’ of learning another family’s nature never knowing their true ‘natural’ half of existence, and in most cases never even grazing it.

It is important to note that while the adopted child struggles with this, so does the adopted adult, in more ways than emotional and psychological: cellular changes:

…perhaps it isn’t exclusively the separation itself that results such a reverberating effect upon the adoptee’s life. Perhaps in addition to the adoptee’s bruised psyche it’s the genetic composition in their cells that slowly grows frustrated over time because they are prevented from behaving in the manner of what’s written in their genetic code as a result of following a different family’s unique nature.

I have my own developing thoughts on the cellular changes that take place within the adoptee and am working on that for another post.

For those who want to discredit adoptee pain by claiming their adoptee is as happy as a clam, John Greene also addresses the different levels of adoptee awareness:

…there are three basic classifications of adoptees: 1) Those who have recognized that adoption has impacted their life; 2) Those adoptees who have not recognized that adoption has impacted their life; 3) Adoptees who feel great inner calamity and turmoil but have no idea what these strong feelings are attributed to.

and

…how are adoptees supposed to know how it feels to be a non-adoptee and develop within the normal balance of nature and nurture with biological parents? This is why it can be said an adoptee will never be able to fathom how a non-adoptee feels and vice-versa.

Clearly, adoption predisposes the separated natural child/adopted adult to psychic pain. It is my opinion that adoption IS child/adult adoptee abuse. This is an awful way to cope with life. This is what adoption does to a person.

I consider the emotional, psychological and physical damage to be enough to dissuade anyone from adopting, but if it is concrete evidence you want, that can be found in the actual destruction of the adoptee’s family of origin, and destruction and falsification of the adoptee’s birth certificate. Those are civil rights issues apart from the psychological fallout of the act of adoption. But the proof of the birth certificate fiasco is sealed from most adoptees at the very will and intention of our adoptive parents and the National Council For Adoption.

No, I cannot find one single reason, not one single justification, for child abduction/adoption. Family Preservation, kinshp care must be alternatives to adoption, and Guardianship, yes, as that provides a loving home with the dignified respect due to a person’s birth family, name and sense of self. And don’t get me talking about the evils of Open Adoption.

Knowing just this much, without reading entire books on the subject, my questions to pre-adoptive and adoptive parents are this: why would you intentionally put a child/adult — the very adoptee you so lovingly take as your own — through such a lifelong ordeal?  Adding the complications of race and intercountry adoptions and separations, why would you adopt a child? How could you cause so much pain to another human being?

Part 5: Response to The Buffalo News 3-Part Series Search for Yesterday: Adoptive, Birth Parents See Reunion Problems: My Natural Father Speaks Out 1984

Appearances are deceiving, or are they?

 1984A,BParentsReunionProblems

I honestly don’t know where to begin.

Right from the start there are the two adoptive mothers who are defending their rights to someone else’s child:

“I don’t want to sound unsympathetic to birth parents”

She just did by dismissing their loss of their child.

“I wouldn’t want someone else to say ‘she’s my daughter’.”

Wow, such denial of the facts of life coming from an adoptive mother who probably was infertile so she thought adopting (taking) someone else’s child as her own was the best choice for herself and the child. Guess what? Her Korean girl IS some else’s daughter!

This “all or nothing” thinking is what causes problems in adoption.

“…chances for a reunion with her biological family are lessened. We didn’t adopt internationally because of that, but it’s a fringe benefit of adopting from another country…That’s one problem you’d almost never have to deal with.”

Really? This adoptive mother contradicted herself. She told me, via a phone call back in 1984, that the only reason she adopted foreign children is make sure her children would never have contact from their birth families.

So, the adoptee’s right to know her own natural parents and siblings and country of origin is seen by her adoptive mother as a problem that is avoided because the chances of reunion are next to nill because the birth family is in Korea? How convenient for the adoptiveparents, or at least this adoptivemother. Notice that adoptive fathers are absent from this article, and even in the series presented in my previous post. Also note that natural fathers are absent from discussion involving illegitimate births.

How am I able to write about this now, nearly 26 years later? Because I took notes.

I’d like to know what that cute Korean toddler of 1984 has to say now in 2010 when she realizes that (by the will of her loving, forever, real adoptive parents) she was held in captivity because her adoptive parents didn’t love her enough to give her the freedom necessary to build her own self identity.

There are so many blogs out there now written by adoptees of color who were adopted by white people and brought to America. These adoptees do not like what was done to them.

I sure do hope that this family has done quite a bit of healing for the adoptee’s sake, if not for the sake of the misguided adoptive parents.

“I think it would be difficult for any child to have two real mothers and two real fathers…”

Yes, it is a difficult path, but all adoptees DO have two mothers and two fathers and they are most certainly REAL. Both sets are real in the adoptee’s life. To deny that is to warp the adoptee’s sense of self.

The other adoptive mother said:

“But I’m not in favor of my daughter finding her mother and forming a relationship…I think it would take away from our relationship, and I feel there would be a strain on our relationship.”

I still meet adoptive parents today who feel this way. It’s that “All or Nothing” thinking again. The shades of grey are there in real life, but not in adoption. Or that’s just the way adoptive parents want it. The  adoptee needs both sets of parents, with or without a relationship, because, whether or not adoptive parents realize it, the adoptee already HAS a relationship with her natural parents. It is the bonds of biology, of genetics, of being hard-wired to haveinherent qualities of temperament and talents and allergies and muscle structure and facial features. With such selfishness of these adoptive parents, it is hard to see any real love there. I see possessiveness and desperate attempts to claim “mine, all mine!”, but this does not speak well of adoptive parent attitudes of 1984.

Like I said, this attitude is still alive in adoptive parents today.

“The birth parents don’t seem to realize the relationship has ended once the papers have been signed. I think it’s a real invasion of privacy when they attempt to meet the child.”

No, it’s the adoptive parents who don’t realize that the relationship between the adoptee and her natural parents continues throughout her lifetime, even if there is no contact. The adoptee feels the loss. The natural parents feel the loss. And we’ve seen natural parents coming out by the thousands, in America and in Korea and elsewhere, to put an end to “taking someone else’s child as your own.”

“Giving birth doesn’t make the parents. It’s the caring and loving and growing with the child that does.”

And natural parents have been coerced into giving up their children to adoption out of shame. They were prevented from the actual parenting of their own children because of that permanent separation. We know from organizations such as Origins and Concerned United Birthparents that these mothers desperately wanted to do the natural acts of parenting, but were forced out of the their child’s lives.

Being pregnant and giving birth are natural events and are most certainly the very essence of life itself. It is the adoptive mother in this article who berates pregnancy and birth because she was deprived of experiencing the very events she puts down.

Hurray for Dr. David Brodzinsky — a former Buffalonian! — for his professional statements. Dr. Brodzinskihas gone on to be a prolific writer on the psychology of adoption. He is the co-author or co-editor of five influential books on adoption,  including The Psychology of Adoption (1990); Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self (1992); Children’s Adjustment to Adoption: Developmental and Clinical Issues (1998); Adoption and Prenatal Drug Exposure: Research, Policy, and Practice (2000), and Psychological Issues in Adoption: Research and Practice (2005).

Still, Dr. Brodzinsky’s statement in this 1984 article raises concern:

“He doesn’t see the issue in terms of ‘rights’. Adoptive parents have the same rights or lack of rights as all parents have…”

Auh, what about the adoptee’s rights?

The International Adoption Reform Movement has made great progress since 1984: Bastard Nation, the American Adoption Congress, Council on Equal Rights in Adoption, Adoption Crossroads, Origins, Concerned United Birthparents, Senior Mothers and hundreds of adoptees’ blogs, mothers of loss blogs, oh, and The Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute, to name a few entities out there promoting adoptees’ rights.

Now, about my natural father’s photo in the paper and his statements.

First thing that must be said: He did not want to be identified in my book, so I changed his name and any other identifications that could lead to him today. BUT, he chose to go public in 1984. He called the newspaper to defend himself. For what? I have always had respect and love for him, and especially his third and present wife, my loving step mother. Nothing I ever wrote put him  down in any way.

As a result of this article, at that time in 1984, my natural father and I healed a five-year period of silence between us. We continued in a growing and loving father-daughter relationship. He was actively involved with my two children, two of his many grandchildren, and we shared tender moments. My father tearfully relayed to me what happened when my mother died — a story he had not been able to tell me in detail until after 1984. He cried when he told me that he “gave the baby — you — up, up, … up for adoption.” I could see remorse in his face and in his heart.

Since the printing of this article, my father and I talked of how newspaper reporters make situations worse by exaggerating points. He wanted to be sure the public knew he “abided by the law” and stayed away from me while I was growing up.

My father and I talked of how the articles did not accurately portray how the adoptee and her adoptive family and natural family are effected by a reunion that went out of control. Too many people butting in, saying harsh words, trying to interfere with the adoptee adjusting to her reunion.

When this article was written, there were unspoken words between my father and I. In 1979, he thought that all I wanted was to get my hands on my sealed records, to talk about the past, to ask about my deceased mother. His worst fear was that I’d hate him for what he had done. After the publishing of this article, we came together to discuss our sore spots, coming away with a greater understanding of each other. We have spent an immense amount of personal energy since then in building a personal relationship that is much different from the relationships he had with his other children from his first wife and the children he has with his present wife. We accepted each other and what the past has done to us.

One summer night in 1987, just shortly before midnight, I knocked on my father’s door. I was despondent because my adoptive mother had just been diagnosed with cancer. I told my father I can’t bear to lose another parent to cancer. My first mother died of cancer, my adoptive father died of cancer. Slowly, my adoptive mother’s cancer went into remission, only to resurface in recent years, but that night my natural father said to me:

“I will always be here for you. We may not have the legal binds, but we have something stronger. We not only have the ties of blood, but we have the emotions in our hearts.”

Sadly, through the passage of time, and the realization that I went full steam ahead, completed and published the memoir I said I was going to write since 1976, those old fears and resentment rose up again. When asked to, my father read a rough draft of my book in 2004. He clarified points. I made corrections he asked me to make and said I represented him in a clear manner. He read another draft of the book again in 2008. This time he said it all could have been avoided if he had gotten some help. I agree. He was alone in his decision to split up his family.

Then, in 2009, I added a Social Work Assessment, of which, my father did not understand. He reacted out of emotion and fear that I do not love and respect him. That is not true. I do love him and respect him. The Social Work Assessment of my adoption was written in analytical style and encompasses all parties to my adoption. My natural father did not understand it. There were other aspects that entered into why we are again not speaking to each other: a disagreement between my natural father, my adoptive mother, and myself; so, my natural father and I parted ways again.

I went ahead with my goals. The book is out now. My adoptive mother doesn’t like it. My natural father doesn’t like it. No one looks good in this book, including me. The true destruction of adoption in my life had to be told, with or without the approval of others.

I wrote it to prevent another family from being permanently separated by adoption.

I wrote my book to make sense of my life with the facts as they were presented to me.

 

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, born Doris M Sippel, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.