Being Adopted: Making Peace with Being Blessed and Being Abandoned
An adult adoptee member of the Creating a Family Facebook Support group posted something last month that took my breath away. “I am still in the raw stage and am learning to live with the ‘I am so blessed’ and ‘I was abandoned’ sitting side by side.”
As adopted parents, we want so much to bless our children and as such, it is so tempting to focus on only the blessing of adoption ignoring that our children will likely have to come to terms with the abandonment of adoption. I thought the commenter, Barbara DeMers, had a beautiful way of expressing this, so asked her to share her journey to reconcile these two parts of adoption.
I recall the glance and the smile that would occur between my mother and myself when the random store clerk, or waitress would say ‘well don’t you look just like your mother’. I like it and am sure it is something my adoptive mother cherished.
I was adopted in December of 1961, about 5 months after my birth. I spent the first five months in an orphanage. My birth parents were both alcoholics and I was removed at birth. Back then, it was important to families on both sides of the adoption to place the child in a home that was best suited, which included matching hair color, eye color, and nationalities as well as religious beliefs.
I always knew I was adopted and I knew it was a special thing. It was celebrated every December 7th with the supper of my choice, and my choice was always spaghetti!
I was raised by very loving, caring parents and had a brother who was 12 and half years older, so by the time I was 5 he was off to college and into the service. For most of my growing up years, I was raised like an only child. My mom came from a large farm family and I had 59 first cousins. My dad also grew up on a farm but had a smaller family.
My parents were fiscally conservative; I was not spoiled with material possessions but I always knew wholeheartedly I was loved and wanted. I recall my father’s eyes lighting up when I would walk into the room. My mother worked part-time, and she was soft-spoken and introverted. I think she was uncomfortable with my outgoing nature and my love of people, but she loved me deeply. I had a healthy, solid, loving upbringing, it was perfect and I could ask for nothing better and would not change it for the world.
Of course, I was curious about where it was I came from. I was in my early 20’s when I saw an article in the newspaper about adoption laws changing, and how an adoptee could contact the agency they had been adopted thru for full or partial disclosure of information about their birth. I wrote the letter, but I was scared to death. I could never tell my parents. I was afraid they would never understand. That I would hurt their feelings for being curious about my birth family.
I went home for dinner one night and out of the blue, my dad had cut the article out of the newspaper to give to me! I listened as my parents told me about finding the article in the paper and about how they thought I might be curious and want to pursue this. I never told them that I had already written and sent the letter, but I felt such relief that I had their approval to do so.
It was a year and half later when I got the call from the social worker, who spilled a few beans saying she should have followed up on a hunch she had from the first time she opened my file. She had graduated from high school with my older sister!
Wait, what? I have an older sister?
Yes, I have three older sisters and two older brothers…. And there is more… a birth mother. I have since found out that all of my birth parent’s children had been removed from them and the last three were placed for adoption. My birth father died two weeks before my birth. He was an alcoholic and a diabetic and that proved to be a lethal combination.
I was notified about my birth family one month before my wedding. My parents strongly encouraged me to wait until after my wedding to meet with my birth mother, but how could I wait at this point? I had already waited so long.
The first time I met my birth mother was at a Perkins. We sat thru breakfast and lunch and talked and talked. I really do not recall much of the conversation. One of my birth sisters came at lunchtime, and it was really weird to look across the table at someone who looked so similar to me. I met the rest of the biological family about a week or so later. I felt immediately welcomed and comfortable.
I recall a birth sister-in-law said to me “I have been married to your brother for 12 years and I have been trying to fit into this family. You walked thru the door and you immediately belong.” I felt that too.
My birth mother was very clear in her vision of our relationship. She said that she would welcome me at whatever level I was comfortable with but had no expectations of me. She was living out of state at that time and was home for an extended period over the holidays.
As my wedding day drew nearer, I invited my biological family to attend. This was big news to everyone. My birth mother said my wedding day was not for her, that this day was for my parents to celebrate, and she very quietly left town. My b-siblings did attend my wedding. Just a few years ago one of my cousins told me that my a-dad was heartbroken over all of this. That still to this day breaks my heart, and I am crying as I write this, for it was never my intention to hurt him. I loved him dearly, as I did my mother.
My dad died from heart disease at the age of 62 when I was 26 years old, just three years after my marriage. It was at his wake that my b-mother met my a-mother for the first time. This was the most poignant moment of my life: I can remember turning to see the crowd of people part and stand aside as my biological family entered the funeral home and move towards my mother and me at my father’s casket. I recall the exchange of gratitude for the gift of me, my a-mom thanking her for the opportunity to have a daughter and my b-mother for loving, caring and raising me so well. It was one of the few times two of the most influential people in my life ever met.
My a-mom and I became even closer after my dad died; we spoke and saw each other daily. I had two children, a daughter and son, two years apart, and my mom was very close to them as well. She fell ill and passed at the age of 70 when my children were 5 and 7. Another huge loss!
It was at this time in my life that I started on a healing journey; I studied several healing modalities, searching for my place, trying to find my Spiritual path. I don’t know if it is related but my birth family has deep roots in the metaphysical arts and studies. My b-mother became a minister in the Unity church, after years as a chemical dependency counselor, and after years of being an alcoholic.
After the passing of my birthmother two years ago, I noticed a nagging and yearning reemerge, something I recognized but never could figure out. What is this inside of me that feels so… so … what? What is it? I suddenly began to notice the synchronicities. It seemed that everywhere I looked I was seeing adoption: parents with adopted teens who were struggling, adults searching for birth parents, birth parents who had given children who were questioning it became a constant in my life. I took this as a sign that I needed to dig deeper. One day it dawned on me that I have never looked into the “psychology of adoption”.
Of course, I did what everyone does—I turned to Google. I kept coming up with the same book, The Primal Wound. This book stopped me dead in my tracks. It was me to a T.
It spoke of abandonment issues, but I was not abandoned…was I? I never thought of myself as abandoned. I was blessed. I was placed into a very loving home. I was chosen. But was I also abandoned?
As I read about the primal wound, I could relate to it 100%. It is the intrauterine bond that a mother has with her child. It is real. It is so real!
I also have learned since my b-mother’s passing that she experienced much stress and trauma during her pregnancy with me, including the death of her husband. It makes so much sense as to why I cannot physically, mentally or emotionally place these feelings I was having, as I can with other traumatic events that have happened in my life. These events happened during a time that I was not ‘conscious’ of them, yet at a time of great importance in my development.
This issue of abandonment is carried thru to areas of my life. Now that I understand this, I can start to heal. There are so many layers; even to the man I married. My husband agrees that the primal wound describes me to a T, but it is also him to a T. Although he wasn’t adopted, he realizes he has abandonment issues since his mother became very ill after his birth and died when he was two. He was not cared for much by either of his parents during that time period, and that is also a form of abandonment. Now we have two adult children, who probably do not want children of their own.
I know now that this IS the missing link; I know that this is an issue I need to learn to address.
It is still very raw for me, I need to learn that I cannot make it perfectly right, that “being abandoned” needs to sit right next to “being blessed”.
This new awareness has brought up rich conversations between my daughter and me. At my first conversation with her about this she was very, very angry, demanding an answer: was I mad or was I sad that I was adopted? I said I am neither; it is what it is. Those two things, blessed and abandon have to learn to co-exist.
I always felt more push should be towards adoption and could never understand why there is so much emphasis on keeping children with the biological parents. I still do not know what is right. Does our society focus too much on the problems of adoption and not on the positives?
I feel all the feelings right now; it is a big raw open wound that I don’t know how to heal, but I’m on the right path.
Thank you Barbara for so eloquently sharing what it feels like to be adopted.
Were you adopted? Have you had to reconcile being blessed with being abandoned?
Other Creating a Family Resources You Will Enjoy
- Talking with Young Children About Adoption and Birth Parents (online course)
- One Adoptee’s Feelings on Being Adopted
- 8 Losses of Adoption
Image Credit: marianabigail; Kai photo; Annette Young;Nom & Malc;