And I knew that the reality of my life was finally clear: I had two mothers.
There was great joy and relief in that knowledge … and sadness. For 32 years before that reality was clear, I had formed an identity and life that had nothing to do with my genetic history and birth family.
While it was a wonderful feeling to have my history and have had my two mothers together, I had no idea how to put the very separate parts of myself together or to integrate it all into my life.
I am different now than I was so many years ago …. because I had created that person who entered reunion and now I have a stronger, clearer and more authentic sense of myself. I don’t need to lead the parade anymore, I am quite happy writing about it. I’ve stopped expecting perfection of myself and I can sleep at night when I blow it and make mistakes. And I don’t spend much time anymore fearing rejection or planning in my head how to avoid it. I have lots of long moments of pure and peaceful contentment and I know how to share connections and intimacy. If you are not adopted, these things might be considered maturing and the natural process of getting to know one’s self. But if you are adopted, you may hear and feel the experience in the words and know the exhausting and relentless search for approval and fear of even minute criticism and all the accompanying fears and anxieties about being rejected. And the longing for a closeness and connection that somehow evades you but you are not sure why.
Grounded now in all of myself and both families, there is one poignant reality that I know. There is nothing wrong with adoption … there is a lot wrong with how we understand adoption and how we practice adoption. For a long time I was angry at adoption … at a system that didn’t or couldn’t find a way to support my mother in keeping me and a family that were so worried about looking the same as everyone else that they could not see my in all my differences.
Now I know about all the good and wonderful things that my adoptive family shared with me and I am not sure if my birthmother was able to parent me at that time in her life. But I know something else … I could not experience what my adoptive family held for me cause I was disconnected from my birthmother and my kinship ties and I was too busy floating and being disconencted to fully experience anything.
There are different degrees and levels of that experience for every adoptee and in every adoptive family ….I know far more now than I ever did about what makes adoption work and what makes it hard . I have my life experience as an adopted person and the privilege of walking the journey with many adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents and learning from their wisdom and experience.
I am saddened by a government and culture that only wants to look at the surface issues and keeps adoption one dimensional when they are so many complexities. Opening records, creating reunions is one first step … we need to provide information and support for all members of the adoption constellation during their lives and in reunion if that is the route they choose. In this year already I have had referrals for too many birth mothers who are living on anti-depressants and believing they failed because they did not cope well, too many adoptees who are scared and frustrated in reunion relationships or creating havoc in their lives as they try to integrate disparate parts of themselves and their two families, too many adoptive parents who are angry or sad, feeling that they have lost their child in reunion. I have too many clients who drive 2 and 3 hours to see me because there are no resources in their area or no-one who understands adoption. And last month I realized that the teen clients in my practice are as many in number as the adults. Teens from 12 and up who are working to find identity, some in closed adoption, some in open, some international, some crown wards who saw many foster homes before adoption.
All of them share a common belief that they are the problem. They deserve information and support that helps them understand why they are not and gives them information and tools to deal with the very real issues which adoption brings to their lives. For some it is easier, for some harder, adoption is not black and white, it comes in many colours and needs many answers and resources.