I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post for quite a while and today I came across a few pieces, one in particular, that have helped me greatly. I found these pieces on Pactadopt.org, specifically the Grief and Loss in Adoption section. Thinking about adoption as loss is something tons of people have written about and I have been overwhelmed by the wealth of information I have found through reading other people’s accounts and experiences with adoption as loss. Here are my two cents.
Adoption equals loss. Although I use the term I’m not super into it. I dislike when people just focus on the negative and this statement surely seems, at face value, to emphasize the negative. That being said, I use it because I think it draws attention to the part of adoption that is seldom, outside of those involved in dialogues about adoption, mentioned: loss. I’ll admit that as a child I always used the line of reasoning that my first family must’ve been poor, sick or in some way unable to care for me and so that I am lucky to have been adopted into a western culture with access to all sorts of wonderful privileges, all of which I have benefited from tremendously. As a child I rejected the framing that adoption equals loss I amended it, as many do, to a much more positive perspective that adoption equals opportunity.
A few nights ago I had someone ask me where I was from and I launched into my little schpeel. I felt more uncomfortable than usual with a phrase I’ve used over and over again. “I was born in Indian and adopted by an American family and grew up in small town Southwest, Ohio.” This time that phrase felt woefully inadequate. I was able to come to the realization, through reading others’ work, that my story didn’t just start with being adopted. There was a year and a half after my birth where I lived in India. Not being able to talk about that year and a half or at least acknowledge that time as a valid experience in my life story hurt. I want to be able to tell people that there was a life during that one and a half years, not because I think that time is more important than the rest of my upbringing but because it is totally left out of my life story. The part before being adopted is en empty box. I know the only way to fill that box and remedy the situation is to learn the details to fill in what is missing. I think this personal conundrum is representative of the larger tendency to silence the loss in adoption.
It is this exact conundrum that leads people to the belief that adoptees should be grateful that they have been adopted. Not just grateful, but that they should see their situation as ONLY fortunate and not involving loss in varying degrees. If people, generally speaking, had a better understanding that the adoption process includes the breaking up of a family, I wonder if they would be less inclined to pressure adoptees into feeling grateful or some form of indebtedness. I think this piece also harks back to an earlier, much shorter post about feeling like I was born at age one and a half: Born After Birth.
One of the pieces that I felt was particularly helpful, although not 100% relevant to this post was “Don’t You Dare Repeat Any of This” Thoughts of Adoption By An Adoptee-By-The-Sea by Joyce Maguire Pavao. Joyce Maguire Pavao does a great job, personally speaking, of articulating a lot of feelings I’ve had over the years in one piece. I hope you enjoy it and find other resources on Pact that are helpful.