My adoption had always been a minor footnote in my ongoing story. My birth and adoptive families have always shared a very open relationship. My own experiences with adoption and the adoptions of my family members had pretty much been filled with sunshine and rainbows. That’s not everyone’s story. But it’s mine.
When I started writing for American Adoptions, I was genuinely shocked to discover that not everyone maintained the kind of positive relationship with adoption that my family had.
During a recent visit with my birth grandmother, I cautiously mentioned, “You know, not everyone really likes adoption.”
She gasped, “You’re kidding! But I don’t understand. Why not? Who feels that way?”
Some of the most common expressions of anger among adoptees include:
“We didn’t get a choice or say in our adoption.”
True. But I guess I always figured that nobody gets a say in being born or choosing biological parents, either.
“Our feelings are rarely talked about. The conversation is dominated by birth and adoptive parents.”
This, too, can be true. But not all adoptees have a strong desire to contribute to the conversation. Voices filled with strong emotions always speak the loudest— be it birth parent, adoptive parent or adoptee.
Whenever I’ve felt diminished by one-sidedness in adoption, I’ve tried to remember that my story is not everyone’s. Everyone needs to express themselves in their own way and in their own time.
“I was torn away from my real family and I’m still grieving the loss. I have no obligation to feel grateful for my adoption.”
I agree that it’s unfair to ask anyone to feel indebted to their adoptive parents — or their birth parents, for that matter. But I personally feel like I should respect and trust my birth parents’ decision to place me with my parents.
Many adoptees grieve the loss of biological family and celebrate their adoptive family — that’s ok, too! Sadness and joy and love and loss all mushed together are a part of adoption. Life is weird and messy sometimes.
Every adoptee’s experience is different and valid.
Note: I won’t touch on anger towards the unfair lack of information access that adoptees of closed adoptions struggle with, because it’s not something I’ve had to deal with, given my own adoption’s openness.
Birth parent anti-adoption sentiments I’ve heard include:
“I was coerced into giving my child up for adoption. Adoption agencies are money-making monsters.”
While I have no doubt that coercion tactics have been used on birth mothers, I have never seen anything like that at American Adoptions. As an adoptee of an open adoption, I feel sort of protective of both birth and adoptive parents that work with American Adoptions, so I’ve always been proud of how much the Adoption Specialists here care for and honor birth parent rights.
“Adoptive parents see me as a means to an end and won’t follow through on promises.”
This is sadly the case sometimes. But not always.
A few years ago, I read a letter that my parents had written to expectant parents while they were waiting to adopt. They promised all sorts of things for this child-to-be — road trips across America, national parks, sporting events, art and exploring the world. We did every single thing that they’d promised in that letter. To this day, they send our birth families annual letters, gifts and photos, even though we’re all connected through social media and email.
My birth parents’ story isn’t mine to tell, nor can I speak for them — but I know that my parents love them and would be devastated to think they’d let them down in any way.
Waiting Adoptive Parents
Even from those who are actively pursuing adoption, I’ve heard hurtful comments about adoption, such as:
“I don’t want a baby of *this* race or *this* gender or *this* genetic medical history.”
As an adoptee, it concerns me when parents get specific about their child. When you adopt, you will not be genetically related to your child. Why try to pretend otherwise? I’m not ashamed of adoption or looking different from my family — are you?
When having a child through biological means, you don’t get to choose your family’s medical history any more than you choose the shape of the nose you’re born with, nor do you get to choose your gender or skin pigmentation when you’re born.
“I want to help a child, so I’m adopting.”
This is a well-meaning comment that many adoptees bristle at. That’s because the desire to do good in the world is not a very good reason to adopt. Do you want to raise a child or a moral superiority trophy?
“I’m not so sure about open adoption.”
I can only speak from what I know, but I firmly believe that open adoption is the reason why I’m not an “angry adoptee.” Open adoption is the reason why I defend modern adoptions. Read up. Get comfortable maintaining an open adoption relationship, keep your promises to birth parents and be forthright about adoption — always.
When I hear these thoughts from hopeful adoptive parents, I question if they really love or understand adoption. I wonder if they’ve thought enough about the feelings of expectant parents and adoptees in the midst of their own whirlwind pre-adoption feelings.
An “Un-Angry” Adoptee
I come across more anti-adoption blogs, websites and social media accounts than I previously would’ve thought possible, given my own positive adoption experiences. Each time, I feel my heart drop through the floor.
Seeing phrases like “natural family,” “family preservation,” and “reasons why you shouldn’t adopt” sting about as much as those cutesy viral videos that gloss over feelings of loss in adoption and hone in on “rescuing” a child by adopting them. Gross and gross. Both ends of the spectrum leave a bad taste in my mouth.
For myself, I feel shut down by adoption-haters just as much as anyone who fails to acknowledge the sacrifices that are bound to adoption. Adoption is neither inherently good nor bad; I think it takes effort from everyone involved to make it either.
Many of the “angry adoptees” that spill their hurt onto their blogs and in forums sadly know very little about their birth family and their adoption, if anything. Maybe I’d feel similarly if I didn’t have such an open adoption. As a relatively young adult adoptee of a very open adoption, I’m part of a new era of adoption that I do believe is catching on.
I love that American Adoptions advocates for open adoptions whenever possible, and I echo that sentiment at every opportunity. I think it offers the peace that so many are looking for in adoption. I hope others can find what they’re looking for.