Light switch

And I hope I don’t tangle myself up any more than I already am in the process of trying to explain my thoughts on one the comments on that last post.

I didn’t mean to dismiss or diminish the experiences of any of the adoptive parents by suggesting that APs can walk away from adoption more easily than adopted people or first parents. But I think it’s fair to say a couple of things that differentiate our journeys from those of adopted people and first parents, which make it possible for us to catch our breath from time to time.

At the top of the list are the facts that a) unless we happen to have been adopted ourselves, we aren’t blocked by law from our own identities (people, this is huge!!!) and b) we chose adoption. I mean REALLY chose it. No adoptive parent wakes up one morning to discover they’re in the middle of a homestudy. We research, we weigh options, and we decide. The way I see it, with any conscious decision comes responsibility. When, years after our decision has brought a child into our family , adoption becomes a presence in our lives (even if we don’t want it to be,) so be it. It was our choice.

Some of you might be thinking to yourselves, Well, what’s different about first parents? They made the decision to put themselves at risk for pregnancy, so they should have to bear the same responsibility.

In the mainstream, adoptive parents can be pretty sure they’ll be praised for their actions. You’ve done such a wonderful thing! Your children are so lucky! The message for most young unmarried men and women is often quite different: Do the right thing for your baby, let him grow up with two parents. How can you possibly support a child at your age? Adoption becomes a temporary path of least resistance, rather than a conscious, enlightened choice. And there's seldom a mention of the grief that's sure to follow.

As for adoptees: They have absolutely no choice of ANY kind in the matter of adoption and are then relegated to second-class citizen by our legal system. It's second nature to me to know my ethnic background and family history; every time I talk to my Mom on the phone, we end up talking about Grandma or Aunt So-and-So, or what happened to the family when they came from the Old Country. I think of that every time one of the kids brings me a medical form that needs to be filled out. I cringe when I see the long list of questions asking them for details about people they don't and may never know. It makes my heart ache to imagine them having to say to a doctor I don’t know, I was adopted. Yes, there are other circumstances in which people lose their family history, but that's no justification for inflicting the same on adopted people. It's just wrong.

The net of it is that adoption becomes a very different presence in the lives of adoptive parents, first parents and adopted people. And this is why I think we APs can take a break from adoption more easily than adopted people and first parents. It's kind of like turning a light switch on and off. When the light is on, it can be blinding, painful even. But then you flick the switch and get a bit of respite. But for many adoptees and first parents, the switch is gone. No matter what you do, the light is there in your eyes, pervading your life. Even if it's painful, there's no escaping it.

I can escape. And that's why I shouldn't.


anaturalfamily said…
Thank you for this post. You articulated so clearly how I feel about this topic. I really appreciate you saying this and I think you are right on point!
Mei-Ling said…
"They have absolutely no choice of ANY kind..."

I don't even need to read the rest of the sentence to agree with this point.

As a TRA, yeah, I didn't have a choice. I have a choice now to learn the language and absorb the culture. However, the way I perceive said absorbment is due to the gap of years in which I was raised in another culture and learned another language, and that is a barrier AND a choice I did not make - which influences how I go on a day-to-day basis IN my birth country.

Sometimes people say it does not matter - "You're young, you can always still attend classes, you can always travel."


But my abilities to absorb the language and culture will also ALWAYS be affected by the lost years.

And to me, that is not fair, for I did not have a choice.
dan said…
I agree wholehearted with what you say. For me, it is just the beginning of a conversation, though: in a world in which all people should have free choice, where does that choice "live" for each of us, and how do we exercise it most wisely?

As an AP, I chose to bring kids into my family, and chose to do so from another country and culture. I made those choices freely, but now I will have to keep making choices pretty much daily. How can I make personal history and cultural identity available to my kids? How do I explain to them who they are and where they're from? They have indisputably suffered a terrible loss and it's up to me to help them deal with it as much as I can. It's a series of choices I now face, that may never end.

My boys, in turn, will have choices to make about how they deal with this information. They didn't choose to be born or to be adopted, but none of us choose to be born and many of us are born to families with terrible problems. How do kids deal with alcoholic parents, or crushing poverty, or abuse? Adoption is none of these things, of course, but it's another one of the many huge challenges that some kids have to deal with, and each one must make independent choices how to do it. Some will rebel, some will withdraw, some will act like nothing's happened till it all blows up for them, and some will work through the stages as best they can at every step. For them that huge first choice was made *to* them, not *by* them - but they will have a lifetime of new choices to make about it.

BPs have to live with one choice for a lifetime. They can never get away from that decision no matter where their lives take them. But for them, once that choice is made, they never have to make another choice about it again. It may have been free will at the time of that decision, or maybe it wasn't - but once it's done, they're shackled to it forever.

I would never suggest that my role as an adoptive parent entitles me to respect, gratitude, pity, or anything else. My sons deserve to have their loss recognized and respected, and that's one of my toughest roles as their father. And their birth parents... I can only hope that time helps them reconcile the awful (awe-full) choice they had to make to let someone else raise their boys. In this triangular relationship, the burden of free will and consequence is borne by all of us. Anytime any of us think we can "shut off that light," we risk all the perils that hide in the dark. I can no more ignore this truth than my boys can.
suz said…
Dan - I have to disagre with your statement here (and I am a "birth" mother)

"they never have to make another choice about it again"

I have to make choices about this every day of my life since I lost my daughter to a broker.

Do I tell my husabnd or future partner?
Do I tell my children?
How do I tell my subsequent children? How do I handle the fact that their sister wants nothing to do with them?
Do I search or not?
How do I find therapy for the PTSD caused by the choice to surrnder my child to strangers?
How do I answer my six year old son when he says "I have a sister? Why can't I see her?"
How do I handle putting out pictures of a child I had that no one recognizes by me?
How do I ansewr the questions on ob/gyne forms that asks how many children have I had?
How do I fill out my will?
What do I do if I find out I have breast cancer and my child might too?
How do I pass on critical medical information?

Surrednering your child to adoption is not a one and done decisoin on matter how much adoptive parents need to believe that. It has lifelong consequences for mothers that permeates every aspect of our lives.
Thanks for writing this post. Suz I agree with you about all the choices we had/have to make.
triona said…
Thanks for saying this. As an adoptee I have to live with the choices others made for me every single day. I have no access to my records (not through lack of trying) and no choice about it. So many things others take for granted hit me like a ton of bricks on a daily basis. Yes, the doctor visits, having to say "I don't know", now also for my children, who are biological yet still affected by the fact that I am adopted. The snide remarks, the dirty looks, the assumptions that by searching for my answers I must be crazy, psychopathic or both. So it is refreshing to know that there are adoptive parents out there, unlike my own, who are willing and able to put their own feelings aside and consider other points of view, even if that may be an uncomfortable process. Thank you!
mama d said…
Another phenomenal post. And, I'm still trying to understand the "shame" of realizing that you (... don't even know how to put it the way I understand it ... ) took a public break (stopped posting) from a limited stage (this blog) without ever leaving (going with the stage metaphor here) the theater entirely.

There is a part of the equation that I am missing entirely and feel that somehow I need to have that part clearly defined so that I can be a better parent to my TRA kids.

And a better friend to you.
Mei-Ling said…
"None of us choose to be born."

Correct. But for many of us, our families aren't intentionally chosen FOR us.

(Eg. You're right that you didn't choose to be born. But nobody HAD to choose your family for you. Chances are, somebody gave birth to you, wanted you, AND was able to choose to keep you. There's a significantly larger issue right there.)

Nor do we choose to be abandoned and then told to "be grateful" for it via society.
Celera said…
Margie, I'm so glad you haven't let one or a few negative people chase you away from sharing your thoughts and experiences as an adoptive mother.

Everyone experiences things in their own way. You have a right to your feelings and you have done a wonderful job of honoring your childrens' history and background, while loving them as your very own. I, as an adoptee who grew up in an abusive adoptive home, have nothing but respect for you. I'm sure you aren't perfect, but you seem to understand that everyone has their own journey, and where there is respect and love, the other things will come together eventually. God bless you for loving your children for who they are, who they were born to be, and who they choose to be. THAT is real love.
a Tonggu Momma said…
And those two things sum it up. My husband and I chose adoption. And I, at least, have not only information, but life experiences, to tell me where I come from. (My husband does not know his first father - he never met him.)

Mei-Ling's comment about "the lost years" are why my husband and I are trying - to the best of our ability - to infuse Chinese culture into our lives. It's not the same... it's never the same... but I don't want our daughter to say that her only experience with Asian culture is a monthly trip to the local Chinese buffet. And yes, Jae Ran's post is sticking with me.
Cassi said…
I wonder, in any other area of life, is the word "choice" tossed around as much as it is in the world of adoption?

Margie - I understand what you are saying and where you are coming from. But I do wonder, from the side of a first/natural parent - when a aparents do understand and grasp the "other" feelings of adoption that exist for adoptees and first/natrual moms, can they ever truly really turn off that light with no reminder of the other truths that exist.

You are still here and you are still speaking out. Why? Is it because, just like first/natural moms and adoptees, adoptive moms too push forth and fight the fights, face the "other" side because there really is no way to completely hide in the dark from what adoption can and does bring outside of the "happy and joy" side?

And that isn't to lessen what you say about adoptive parents having the strongest voice that others will listen to. On that point, I agree with you 100%. For all the many reasons we are already aware of, your voices are accepted and respected more than adoptees or first/natural moms but that doesn't take away, as we have seen, the fact that adoptive moms are also just as vulnerable to attacks and anger as the others who are speaking out.

So I guess what I am trying to say in the long-about way is that I understand what you are saying and I do agree but I also think that adoptive moms who are standing up and speaking out can never completely again hide away from the truth nor are they exempt from the anger and ugliness that tends to come towards those who speak in areas other than the "roses and sunshine" view of adoption.

I just hope you understand that as right as you are about where adoptive mothers should not sit back and ignore certain areas of adoption, the same truth holds for all sides and you, or any other adoptive mother speaking out, should have to accept or not react to the ugliness that is tossed around simply because of where you are in the whole adoption process.
Cassi said…
Dan - I agree with Suz. Surrendering my son over twenty-one years ago was in no way a "one-time" thing in my life or how it was affected.

That time in my life has held a strong fist over so many decisions, actions and feelings in every year that has passed since then.

Adoption didn't hit my life in one part and then drift away. It has always, and continues, to be a part of who I am and what I have become.

And there wasn't a "one-time" choice involved that I just moved on from. There was no choice. And there was nothing as simple as moving on. I have had to find a way to be who I am and the mother I am with the reality of adoption always hanging over my head.

I am not the person I am today because I dealt with or moved on from any percieved "choice" in the surrender of my son. I am where I am because I have the strength now I had then that nobody encouraged or accepted but was there all along. And that strength has gotten me through the MANY decisions I have had to make past losing my son. Decision that have and continue to affect the life I live today.
dan said…
Suz, Cassi: I am humbled and chagrined by the truth you have shared with me. Clearly I spoke from an overly-simplistic viewpoint, and did not respect the complexity of the act of relinquishment. I also think I spoke crudely, in part because I spoke hurriedly about something that should only be considered with full deliberation. A birth mother's (and in some cases father's) life is surely changed forever by choosing adoption for their child. My point - clumsy as it was - was that so long as the birthparent lacks a relationship with the child in his or her new family, that component of the "triangle" does not connect with the others involved in the adoption, but is an internalized process of dealing with the past, rather than an evolving future. I utterly failed to recognize the truly evolving nature of that decision itself, though it was a past decision, that you so patiently articulated for me. And even apart from that, just a few hours after I hit "send" I realized I hadn't even considered open adoptions, where the birth parent(s) participate and share in the child's life, to a greater or lesser extent, but on a continuing basis. So I do want to apologize for giving such short shrift to such a significant component of this process. I am grateful for this forum that has so educated me, and to both of you for having the grace and courtesy to help clarify my vision.
~Issy said…
So very thankful i stumbled across your blog-i'm an adoptive mother and have been pondering and thinking about these things for a while now. This is an amazing post and i am passing your blog on to my friend.
korean war baby said…
I am amazed at the comments on this! All of you have great respect for each other and are trying to discuss this multi-tiered "Thing of Ours-Adoption" with sensitivity and openness. I love to hear all the different personal accounts and opinions of so many members of the "Triad". We CAN all learn from each others perspectives.

I am a 'Half-Breed' (using the term that my 1st Mother's people in Korea would use- Tuigi). My natural/birth father I have learned from DNA testing is of Apache/Spanish/Mexican ethnicity, a real Tex-Mex blend. I grew up in a white middle class family but being adopted at five years old it was different for me.

I was also an "Absent father" of a daughter and son, guilty of not doing the right thing in the days of my youth, I repeated the sins of my own father. I punished myself by having a Vasectomy at 28 years old. No more 'bastards from me', leading to my abuse of many women by 'leading them on' falsely that I would marry them (Ten years in the Philippines working on films).

Then when I finally got religion, got married we faced the problems of trying to have a 'IVF' or 'test tube baby'. So I know the frustrations of Infertility so many couples go through.

I can understand many different aspects and perspectives. Now I am living in Korea and married to second wife, a Korean police officer. We are not able to adopt a child due to my being a US Citizen.

I thank all of you for your honest sharing, I continue growing as I read more from folks like you. May God (Whomever you have faith in) Bless you all.
Diane said…
Margie- Your posts always linger. I have been reflecting on this one for a few days. I am guilty of wanting to use that AP switch- I have reached for it and yanked it a few times...lately, I am fatigued by the glare and want to switch to off but there seems to be a switch malfunction- a flickering of sorts.
Margie said…
Hey, all, thank you. Just - thank you. The discussion here is incredibly meaningful to me, and I'm glad that it appears to be for you all as well.

I want to respond to Cassi to clarify what I mean when I say I CAN flip that switch - reponding to this:

"But I do wonder, from the side of a first/natural parent - when a aparents do understand and grasp the "other" feelings of adoption that exist for adoptees and first/natrual moms, can they ever truly really turn off that light with no reminder of the other truths that exist."

I'm able to flip that switch off regarding MY personal story. My personal history isn't blocked from me by law, I can go to the doctor and answer the questions on the medical form with no problem, I know my ethnicity, etc.

I live the joy of adoption first-hand. But I live the pain through my children and their first families. And that really does give the opportunity for respite.

Hope that clarifies!!
Anonymous said…
Great Post Margie~~~


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