Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NaBloPoMo/NAAM Day 7: Childhood Adoption Narratives

My childhood adoption narrative wasn't so much false as it was incomplete. My adoptive mother told me that my original parents had been young and unable to care for me. She emphasized how much she and my adoptive father had wanted to become parents and told me that I should always understand how much I was wanted by them.

As an adult in reunion, I have a fuller understanding. I know about the shame and secrecy surrounding my birth to unwed teenage parents. I understand how difficult it would have been for my original parents to envisage a way to parent me in a context marked by a complete lack of support for the parenting option from family and society. I understand that my mother was required to sign papers saying that she hadn't been coerced to relinquish me, but that signing those papers seemed false to her; it was true that no one was holding a gun to her head, but it still felt like coercion. I understand that my adoptive parents weren't the only ones who wanted me.

This was 1966 -- the tail end of the baby-scoop era.

My adoptive parents were (and are) well-meaning, conscientious people. They constructed my adoption narrative as directed by the materials they had received from the adoption agency. They believed, because they were told it was so, that if they simply said the right things, repeating the words from the books and pamphlets of the day, that my adoptedness would be a nonissue for me, that I would grow up feeling "as if born to" my adoptive family.

Unfortunately, this assumption was false. There wasn't really anything that my parents could have said or done to prevent feelings of grief and loss from eventually rising up in me. No magic words exist that could have forestalled my struggle to integrate the fragmented parts of my identity. It would have been nice if they could have given me some words of wisdom to prepare me for the journey of my adult adoptee self, but they couldn't give me what they didn't themselves possess. My true adoption narrative was one I needed to write myself. I am still working on it. 


  1. "My true adoption narrative was one I needed to write
    myself. I am still working on it. " this is a very powerful thought, and so very, very true.

  2. Thank you so much for your kind comment. "I try to remember to ask them as many questions as they ask me" -- I love this!!! I think you have hit on something that is absolutely key. There may not be a magical thing that we can say, but there is something that we can do as parents of adoptees ... and this is it.