April 19, 2013

Adoptees: Why Are You Focused on the PAST?

"Why don’t adoptees just move on?"

"Why do you dwell on the past?" 

"You need to move forward! Yes, things happened in your past -- but you don't have to stay stuck there..."

I’ve heard all these things and more, mostly from those who are not adopted.

Photo Credit: Nasrulekram, Creative Commons

 While I agree that our past does not have to destroy our present or future, it does affect it, like it or not. And furthermore...

Adoption is not just about our past. It concerns our present and future.  

This is not easily understood by those who do not walk in our shoes. First, identity issues are something processed throughout one's life. There are some people who will read this who will never believe that. So, let's place that aside for a moment as much as I dislike that and go on to something else to illustrate the present and the future. Allow me to open your eyes to the reality of what many adoptees live. 

I have changed all names and identifying information.  And yes, these are REAL. Some of them have even happened to me personally. Unfortunately, these scenarios are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Adoptee Sarah is in reunion with her  original mother, Tess. This has greatly upset her adoptive mother, Martha.  Martha has reacted angrily to Sarah and Tess's relationship, and told many people in their circle of family and friends that Sarah is a disappointment and has caused devastation within the family by reuniting. Now many of the people in the extended family are not speaking to Sarah and when they do it’s tense. The buzz in the family is that Sarah is an ungrateful, bad daughter. No one has bothered to ask how Sarah might be feeling through all of this, but plenty of people ask how her adoptive mother is doing, and "Poor Martha..." can be heard at every turn.

Adoptee Jackie is in relationship with her original family but has kept it a secret for years. Her adoptive parents are elderly and she is concerned they may actually have a heart attack or suffer something equally as traumatic if they knew of the relationship.  Jackie is planning on going public about knowing the rest of her family once her adoptive parents die.

Adoptee Sam (who is married with a family) has been in reunion with his original parents, Steve and Susan, for three years. He and his wife invite them as well as Sam’s original brother and sister to their children’s special events (birthdays, school programs, etc.) Sam's adoptive family, who are also invited, make things extremely difficult.  They intentionally mistreat Sam's original family with cold stares, silence and snide remarks in an effort to try to get them to just stop coming to the family gatherings so they can "have Sam all to themselves again." 

 Adoptee Lauren has changed her name back to her original legal name - the one she had prior to adoption. She has asked everyone including family, friends, work associates, etc. to refer to her by her new legal name. Work associates have no problem doing so, and are actually quite excited for her about the change. However, her family went ballistic and told her they would not do as she asked. Although they had no problem when she got married and took her husband’s last name, they  have a major issue with her incorporating what was her name at birth, into her current name and consider it as a betrayal. 

Adoptee Tyler has just been given an assignment in school -- the making of a family tree. He cannot complete the assignment accurately. More than just not finishing a school project, he feels very sad inside about it. He does not feel he can express his feelings openly.

Adoptee Anabel is an international adoptee who was not automatically granted citizenship by her adoption. She has trouble getting a passport. This has actually ruined her honeymoon plans and she and her fiance are trying to come up with Plan B.

Adoptee Miranda has longed to know the identity of her father but her original mother has kept the information from her. She has lovingly asked for the information and her requests have been rejected. She makes her intention to pursue DNA testing known and her original mother threatens to have nothing to do with her anymore if she pursues her father.

Adoptee Stacey goes for her annual check up, and the doctor says that some of her blood work has come back abnormal. He sends her for further testing and determines she has a hereditary illness. Knowing ahead of time would have been helpful in treating the disorder. Stacey's records are sealed and she is troubled by risk factors she may not be aware of. Each year at her annual check ups she must explain to the doctors why she has no updated family medical history.

Adoptee Janet has been in reunion for a few years and has become very close with her original family.  Recently at her daughter's birthday party, she called out to her original mother, “Mom, are these your car keys on the counter?” to which her adoptive mother said, “Well, thanks for that knife in my heart…” [Referring to Janet also calling her original mother, “Mom.”]

Adoptee Mark plans to spend Thanksgiving this year with his   original family. Mark's adoptive family are devastated at the news and are now giving him the silent treatment.

Adoptee Andrea introduces her original sister, Becca, to everyone at her graduation party. Her adoptive sister, Trina pipes up and says, "You only have ONE sister!!" and storms off angrily.

Adoptee Tara enjoys being a part of the adoptee community. It is her main support system with the current situations she goes through as an adoptee. Several months ago she clicked “LIKE” on an adoptee site on Facebook and her adoptive mother noticed it on her newsfeed. She immediately called her and interrogated her about why she is reading or would "like" things like this. It erupted into a huge fight. Tara wiped her Facebook clean of any trace of reading adoptee sites. She privately comments by private message but does nothing to show her involvement publicly because the price she will pay has been made clear.

Adoption is not just about our past. 
When they say, "Adoption is forever," it really is. 

In my own personal case, I would estimate that 90% of what I deal with regarding my adoption are current issues. Very little has to do with the past. As a Christian I try to follow Jesus' command to not worry about the future. Even so, at times I am anxious in trying to figure out how I will handle things coming up in my life or my children's lives that are impacted by the fact that I'm adopted.

Adoptees deal with the reality of adoption every single day as it affects our marriages, our children, our grandchildren and everything that touches our lives.

And we're all just doing the best we can.