Happy national adoption month! I was so happy to find Jessalyn's wonderful blog as I have followed the daily postings of adoption stories on adoption.net. Her challenge to negativity about adoption came as a breath of fresh air to me.
It's now almost twenty-three years since I adopted my son and fifteen since i adopted my daughter. As I reflect on all that has happened since then in my life and in the world it is quite staggering. What has happened with adoption is such a powerful reflection of these changes.
When my son was born in 1990 adoption was still mostly closed. I remember that California was beginning to have open adoption. There was no internet. There was not the huge access to the vast amount of information and opinions that we have today. There were no blogs!
Adoptive parents were given standard advice: Tell your children they are adopted. Tell them they can search for their birthmothers when they get older, preferably at age eighteen. Birth parents were mostly invisible. Adoptee grief was tucked away behind the wish that everyone would be happy and the assumption that all would have a better life created by the "solution" of adoption.
We are now rocking on the sea of anger at these presumptions. This is creating dramatic and lasting change. Change never comes without pain, just as adoption does not come without loss.
It is heartening to see a birthmother like Jessalyn feel good about her decision to place her child for adoption. She was able to do this in this new context of a changing adoption world. She was able to feel empowered to make a choice, however painful and difficult. Her voice and the voices of other women who have made this choice in an era when openness allows them to own their decision is a huge and welcome shift in the world of adoption.
It is unfortunate that many who have not experienced adoption as positive insist that anyone who has a different experience must be wrong. There are many common features to most adoptions: loss, grief, fantasies of lives not lived, anger at abandonment. These are all difficult feelings to deal with and overcome. It is easy to become stuck along the way and even easier to assume that, because there are many common experiences, all adoptions are the same and all involved feel the same way. Clearly, this is not true.
We need to make space for many voices, most especially the voices of change. Adoptees are working to open records and claim their full identities. Birthmothers are gaining a voice and power in the decision to place their children and maintain relationships with them. i would like to raise my voice for the changes that adoptive parents are experiencing as the world of adoption opens.
I adopted my children in the last years before these changes had fully occurred, that is to say in closed adoptions. As the adoption world has opened so have we. I have helped both my children search for and find their birth families with two dramatically different results. Again, no two situations are the same! In order to do this, I have had to soul search and let go in ways I never imagined years ago when I was given the advice I refer to above. Much to my surprise, it has opened my heart in ways I never imagined and brought into our lives a new extended family for one child that broadens our world and theirs. For my other child, questions were put to rest, but the birth family did not want connection and my child was challenged to grieve again.
I think these two results of search and reunion serve as reminders to us all that no two situations in adoption are the same. Biological connection gives us different kinds of connections, not always positive ones. When it does it is amazing and when it does not, it can be very hard, but also freeing. As we ride the tide of change that is opening us all to each other it is so vital to hold in mind that extreme positions and assumptions about the meaning of our adoption experiences do not allow us the room to have our own individual stories and to learn and grow from them.
Barbara Freedgood, LCSW
Link to video on adoption: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nZDp64tFo0