The Chasm

I listened to Joy and Addie on The Adoption Show on Sunday - they were terrific, and it's so good to have physical voices to go with the voices that come off the pages of their blogs. Plus, I like The Adoption Show - it's a no-holds-barred look at adoption, not sugared or prettied up for mainstream consumption. Michelle Edmunds tells it like it is, and encourages her guests to do the same.

Which may be the reason that some a-parents find it hard to listen to. But we have to. We have to get beyond our own perspectives on adoption and to let go of our beliefs, which may paint a skewed picture of the adoption experience.

It can be hard to listen, no question. One of the things I find challenging is the fact that it's immediately clear that The Adoption Show is most definitely not about adopters. Criticism is hard to take at the best of times, and when delivered straight from the hip from someone with a good reason to be critical, it can really hurt. In some ways, I feel a little like an eavesdropper when I tune in, like I'm listening to a conversation not meant for my ears. But I also know that listening has broadened my understanding of adoption loss - extremely important for an adoptive parent.

During Sunday's show I kept thinking about the adoption triad. The concept of the triad hasn't worked for a long time for me. When one of the supposedly equal partners has no power at all and the other may have been pressured or coerced into his or her role, the image sort of loses its punch. Some have replaced the triad with a plane, with adoptive parents and first parents at each end and the adoptee in the middle, pulled in multiple directions. That's a better image, but for me it still misses the mark because it gives the impression that the parents are on equal footing. They're not, although to an adoptee the end result of the endless tug-of-war may be the same.

These days the image that works best for me is a chasm. We face each other across the chasm - maybe we try to bridge the gap, or maybe we let it be. We are connected by the ground that surrounds the chasm and could walk around it to each other if we wanted. But what's in the chasm causes some of us a lot of pain, so we stay where we are.

Making the effort to reach each other is hard. Sometimes we fall, and sometimes we lose ourselves in the effort. The chasm grows and shrinks unexpectedly, tantalizing us with the possibility of success and then separating us again. Some of us try to build bridges across the gap, but the chasm swallows them up. And some of us don't even want to try. For all kinds of justifiable reasons - self-preservation, frustration, anger, sorrow, pride, fear, and more - we make the decision to accept the separation.

This chasm is filled with everything that's wrong about adoption - secrecy, lies, shame, dishonesty - a rotten foundation for any bridge we might try to build across. No, we have to fill it in, bury the injustice and inhumanity for all time, cover it over so completely that it can never surface again. Eradicate it entirely.

No question, the adoption triad is a much easier image to live with. But what's the point of building our understanding of an experience as important as adoption on an false image? Better to recognize reality, and to accept the challenges for what they are.

And then pick up our shovels and start digging, for we have a whole lot of work to do to fill that chasm in.


HeatherRainbow said…
((ThirdMom)) Thank you for being so real and open.
Michelle said…
Hi Marjie,

Thank you for your very honest post. It's very rare to hear an adoptive parent express what you have here.

I remember about 15 years ago when I was dating a guy...we had known each other for about two weeks, when he shared with me that he was adopted, I said, really? So am I. We talked briefly about finding our parents then it never came up again.

Five years later I reunited with my mother and five siblings. Then I began to talk about adoption.

My point is that at age 28 I had no idea that being adopted had anything to do with my life. I don't how I viewed it, really, other than something that had happened only to me. I had a mother and father somewhere, and I forced myself to think about them only as people who had the answers to my questions.

I never knew how to talk about adoption; I didn't know what it meant. What I wanted, though, was to know my mother, but no one would let me, nor did they care how it was troubling me or how confusing it was for me that I couldn't know my people or anything about myself. So I stopped caring, stopped talking about it and just smiled so not to let on that I was bothered by anything.

Now, I have learned about the practice of adoption, what it means, how it can effect one's direction in life, what it does to a presons's sense of self-worth and how it shapes one's view of self and the world. It is so complex and once a person has woken up to adoption trauma, it's a long road ahead to understanding and discovering the real meaning and effects of family separation.

The show gives mothers and fathers a platform to talk about the trauma experienced from losing a child to adoption - it gives the children of these mothers and fathers a place to talk about how they really feel about being adopted and losing their mother, family and culture.

The show gives people a platform to help one another understand what happened to all of us.

Thank you for listening and understanding.

Lizard said…
Add a thank you from me, too. I have recently been involved in a thread on SofA about abandonment and I finally (I think) realized why adoptive parents put up a wall against hearing about their adopted children's adoption issues. I could be wrong, but here's what I think...

They want to believe these issues won't exist for their child because they stepped in to save the day. What they don't (won't?) hear is that that day came and went BEFORE the child came to them. Their child's issues come from being (at least psychologically) abandoned by the PREVIOUS person/people, and those issues will NOT magically disappear by dint of their being with their new family.

The child's feelings as a result of that PREVIOUS experience need acknowledgment, expression, and empathy. They need you to cry and grieve WITH them.

It is only when they do not receive this precious gift that they may later turn their anger on you, and THAT anger is about the lack of acknowledgment, permission to express their feelings, permission to grieve, and your empathy.

If adoptive parents can understand this, I think they will stop resisting our adult adoptee voices. After all, we are truly trying to HELP. We are not just pissing and moaning and striking out blindly.
Margie said…
Thanks, Heather, Michelle, and Julie. When I listen to The Adoption Show, or read your blogs, I'm always struck by the breadth and depth of your knowledge about adoption, as well as your ability to zero in on the issues.

Julie, you make such a good point - yes, there are many a-parents who are simply resisting hearing adoptees. They are utterly convinced, because their children may be showing no outward signs of distress, that all is well. Yet the comments on my next post, Absence of Grief, make it crystal clear that adoptee grief may not surface until well into adulthood. But it's always there, and we a-parents need to acknowledge it, and be prepared to support our kids when it does come to the surface of their emotions.

Michelle, I've had a link to The Adoption Show on my Activism page for a long time, but have just added it to the sidebar, and will also get it on my blogroll. You're doing good work!!

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