I just want to say “Thank you,” to the adoptee community. Some of them have done an outstanding job bringing to light the ugly underbelly of adoption. But wait: did you know that adoption has an ugly underbelly? Well, it does. I will probably touch on it from time to time.
The reason I want to thank them is that they have helped me understand my own childhood. I’ve read enough from them that I know they don’t like being compared to the kids of divorce. And in a way I get that. The two are not the same. But I have seen enough conceptual similarity to be helped in my own situation as a child of divorce. Here are several ideas I got from them.
#1: On their blogs you may encounter an idea that goes like this: “I don’t know who I look like,” or, “I was raised around people who don’t look like me.”
As a child of divorce I knew who I looked like… but at the same time I understood the discomfort of being raised around people who didn’t look like me (each of my step-families). The ways in which I looked or acted like my dad were indicators that I was an outsider in my mother’s home. Same is true when I was at my dad’s home, but reversed. It is a terrible feeling to live this way, especially when you can’t even articulate it. You are always suppressing half of who you are in order to avoid feeling like an outsider. But the outsider status remains, since 1/2 of who you are has been rejected by the other half.
#2: Adoptees hate being told, “Aren’t you glad you weren’t aborted?” It is very insulting, so I don’t blame them for hating this question. There are important concepts embedded in that question. I explored them here.
And guess what? I can relate to this too. About eight years ago my mother told me that when she found out she was pregnant with me, she and my dad drove to Mexico to get an abortion. The doctor wouldn’t do it though. He said she was too far along with me. It was really strange to hear this information. Part of me was shocked, but in a way it made sense because I was never fully part of the new life she created after leaving my dad when I was three.
And frankly, there have been plenty of times I’ve wished I had died as an infant or in the womb. So yea, that question is a really shitty question. Don’t ever ask it of an adoptee, or of anyone.
#3: You might encounter something that goes like this: “I was treated differently than how my adoptive parents’ treated their biological children.”
Something similar was definitely true in my case, where my half-sister had a childhood that was radically different from mine. And I’m not just making this up–she sees and admits it.
#4: They created a concept called “adoption fog.” Adoption fog is what most people have about adoption. Most believe the false cultural narrative about adoption, that it is only positive (adoption is beautiful, adoption gives life, adoption is better than abortion, adoption is selfless) and never negative. They resist any attempt to bring some of the ugly reality to light. If anybody questions the cultural narrative, they are labeled as having mental issues.
I think there is something similar among the kids of divorce, their parents, and their therapists. But particularly the kids. I will call it “divorce fog.” It is extremely difficult to come to grips with just how hard it is to live a fractured life, living with a split ontology, and living in a perpetually liminal state. Has your therapist ever explored those concepts with you as you struggle to understand your depression and your anger? I really doubt it. But if so, PLEASE contact me as I would LOVE to talk to that person.
I think the divorce fog is doubly impenetrable when external factors make things look OK from the outside. But this life has been a hall of mirrors, and I mean this as more than just a metaphor. In many ways it is far easier to “go along to get along,” and this is partially due to not having a solid conceptual framework to understand our experiences. One of the reasons I started this blog was to flesh out a better conceptual framework. My hope is that this will help kids of divorce recover their voices and have courage to speak openly about what it was like.
#5: They inspired me to start writing in an honest way. I was so impressed with their willingness to be vulnerable and to describe what things were like, without fear of what others would think.
So thank you, adoptees. Some of you had the courage to write the truth about your experiences. You’ve helped not only your fellow adoptees…you’ve helped me too.