Monday, April 6, 2009

Eating Glass: Adoptees & APs Talking Adoption

A few weeks ago, I linked to this thought-provoking post from Joy, where she wrote about her reluctance to talk about her adoption with her adoptive parents, even though "I know if I do talk to them about it, they will say the right thing." She said she'd rather eat glass, and in the comments, Mei-Ling concurred.

Since the whole point of this blog, "Adoption Talk," is adoptees and adoptive parents talking adoption, I asked a series of questions in the comments:

Is openness in talking about adoption enough? Joy says (and Mei-Ling agrees). "I know if I do talk to them about it, they will say the right thing."

So what's the problem with "saying the right thing?" Is it lack of sincerity? They'll say the right thing, but I know they don't mean it?

Or is it ineffectiveness? Even when they say the right thing, it doesn't help me? What they say is something I know in my head, but it doesn't reach my heart?


Mei-Ling has provided thoughtful answers to those questions at her blog Shadow Between Two Worlds:

Why have I not once mentioned my feelings of being replaced? of not being “worthy” enough? of not being “good” enough? of not “mattering” enough? (and a bunch of other adjectives that I’m sure you’re all sick of reading ad nauseum by now).

Because seriously, if I mentioned it, what could anyone really do about it?

“I know if I do talk to them about it, they will say the right thing” - from Joy’s Division.

Of course people are going to tell me I haven’t been ‘replaced’, that I am ‘worthy enough’, that I am ‘good enough’, and that I do ‘matter.’ It’s not that I don’t want to hear those words. It’s not that I don’t want to believe them, and that my mind is
desperately trying to believe them for the sake of an emotional survival response, to be able to get through this. It is not so much that I am determined to have people pity me, or that I’m doing this for attention. It isn’t that I want to believe I am replaced.

* * *

As Malinda questions: Is it lack of sincerity? They’ll say the right thing, but I know they don’t mean it? Or is it ineffectiveness? Even when they say the right thing, it doesn’t help me?

I’ll tell you why.

Because I was still relinquished.

* * *

Having people tell me - what I know my own mom would tell me - doesn’t change the fact that my sister was born, it doesn’t change that my mother had her to “heal” her loss of me. It doesn’t change that she relinquished me. It doesn’t change that she took my “role.” It doesn’t change that she was born to do my “job.”

I do not underestimate the importance of honesty, as that is what builds real relationships on a solid foundation of trust. But what I am saying (and trying to convey) is that honesty doesn’t really “fix” anything. It doesn’t change anything. Neither does reunion, for that matter.

To a child, abandonment is abandonment is abandonment. You can’t go back in time and erase that. You can certainly talk about it, provide comfort, say all the right things (I’m not saying you shouldn’t, either) - but you can’t change it. You can’t fix it. You just learn to deal with it and live with it.

As always, Mei-Ling, thanks for sharing your experiences and your emotions. I accept that talking can't fix the hurt of adoption, but I hold out hope that acknowledging that hurt early and often with my kids will help them, as you wisely say, "learn to deal with it."

2 comments:

Mei-Ling said...

Ah, I was wondering if you were planning to get back to this.

Thanks, Malinda - also, please see your e-mail.

Wendy said...

Thanks to Mei-Ling and all of the adult adoptees who add not only to our discussions, but to our knowledge and understanding.

I hope, like you Malinda, that growing up with the discussions, the possibilities, the honesty, and realizations that we cannot fix, but are always there to support will help and heal in some ways.