Friday, May 8, 2009

"Exploring the Concerns of Adoptive Parents"

PBSParents is offering an Expert Q & A on adoption. The expert is Dr. Michael Thompson, psychologist and adoptive parent. He shares his real-life introduction to adoption issues:

Twenty-four years ago, when my newly-adopted daughter, Joanna, was about four months old, I was reading an article about adoption in the Sunday paper. The author made the sweeping statement that all adopted children feel a life-long "sorrow"about having been given up by their birth parents. When I read this, it made me angry. Here I was, preparing to be a loving, caring, generous adoptive father to a beautiful baby girl. The idea that she would carry a sorrow with her for her entire life felt like an affront to my loving heart. As her excited psychologist father, wasn't it my mission to protect my daughter from pain?Wasn't it my job to make sure that she had a happy childhood and felt wonderful about being adopted by us?

I read the offending sentence out loud to our in-house expert on adoption: my wife, Theresa. As a malnourished baby weighing only eleven pounds at seven months, Theresa had been adopted from an orphanage outside Dublin, Ireland by an American family. She also has three adopted younger siblings. She was the expert, and I fully expected her to refute the author's sorrow argument. "This is a little much, isn't it?" I prompted. She looked me in the eye and said, "That sounds about right to me."

In the short piece he addresses the following questionsadoptive parents frequently have: How can I be sure that the loving bond I have with my adoptive child is as strong and close as the attachment (I imagine) between a biological child and birth parents? How do I raise a child whose temperament and learning style are so different from mine? When my child has behavioral or emotional difficulties in childhood, how can I tell whether they are "normal" problems or adoption-related problems? How do I talk to my child about his or her being adopted when it's hard to bring the subject up, or I'm not ready for it myself?

He's also addressing questions in the comments, so post a comment there if you want expert feedback on a burning issue.


Mei-Ling said...

Aha... someone typed up the "Moses example." @@

Mei-Ling said...

"Here I was, preparing to be a loving, caring, generous adoptive father to a beautiful baby girl. The idea that she would carry a sorrow with her for her entire life felt like an affront to my loving heart."


OK, now this has become about the adoptive parent and not the child.

maybe said...

I read some of his responses - they mostly where of the dismissive variety: "everyone has those issues, it's not due to adoption."

Disappointing yet typical.

Cassi said...

Okay, I read through most of what is written there and I do think he is trying to help, even if in some ways he seems to have a bit of prejudice. Of course I also just might be my own personal experience coming into play since one of the things that stuck hard was his comparison of the abusive bparents and the loving aparents. Um, yeah, and it could go the other way too. Lets not stick either one on the saintly side.

Mei-Ling - of course Moses had to come up somewhere. Can't get through too many adoption discussions without that being thrown out there.

Malinda, and others who are reading this, I wonder, with aparents, is it difficult to grasp on to the knowledge that adoption can affect the child? I ask because I know for a long time I used the fact that I could handle my hurt because I knew atleast it was good for my son and when I first started to listen to adoptees and learn about some of the truths of how adoption has affected them, my first knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss it and believe they were a "rare" few. The thought of my own child hurting in any way was so hard to accept - and this was before I reunited with and learned the truth of what my son went through.

So I just wonder sometimes when some amoms get so angry, and sometimes even cruel, if somebody suggests that adoption can have an affect on their child, are they going through that same knee-jerk reaction too? Is it hard on their side to to accept that no matter how much they want, or wanted, the best for their child, that because of our actions (I mean in the sense of giving up my son and amoms adopting their children)they can't stop them from being hurt by them when that is exactly what a parent is supposed to do, protect their children from harm?

Does that question even make sense? I'm just trying to understand why some want to deny there might be any harm to their children and hold so tight to deny it.

Wendy said...

Cassi--I am an amom and I cannot figure out why others want to react so quickly against the suggestion their child will have pain. I think it is "I will love them enough so they won't have any" or it may be they feel someone is questioning their parenting.
I absolutely know my daughter has pain (she just turned five), but I have known that since the day she was abruptly forced into my husbands arms (actually before--I researched anything and everything adoption before we adopted her). Maybe because she was 25 months old there was no way to deny it, I don't know.
Sometimes I find myself feeling that ap's are "getting it" now, but I am then brought back to reality each time by a comment on a board or meeting with an acquaintance, etc. Most especially I see ignorance each time I discuss issues relating to our lives--getting everything from "you talk about adoption so that is probably why she is having pain" or the "look" that maybe she has emotional problems. The fact is, she is normal. It is their children I hear talking to my daughter when they don't think adults are listening or conversations she has with me about her playtime that proves that they are in the dark. You know, "my daughter/son doesn't remember anything", "my daughter/sonhas never brought it up/doesn't think about their birth family", "my daughter/son is too young now".
I am grateful that my daughter trusts me to share her feelings and thoughts; I try to foster that trust. I do NOT put things into her mind; trust me, I could not fathom some of the things that she is dealing with and exploring.
I haven't read over what this adad is writing on so I will not comment about that. I only hope he is realistic in his approach and doesn't claim he has all of the answers or places all ap's in one box as I find myself fighting against often.

Diane said...

Cassi- Yes, the question makes total sense. It is difficult to absorb and it is difficult to throw away the adage- love is enough. But, I believe it is the responsibility of the AP to do so- to not do so is to deny a part of your child's existence.

Wendy- Sometimes I think things are getting better too. Then I realize I think so because I have tightened my world- both real and virtual. When I open back up to the greater adoption community I don't see a heck of a lot has changed. Just today I read a blog of an family in China who completed the Chinese side of the adoption and now is deciding to disrupt due to the child (2.5) having institutional delays. I want to slam my head into a wall- but I already have a headache. The subsequent rally of support, from the adoption community, after they made their disruption announcement is even more gut wrenching.

Wendy said...

I totally am in that place too Diane, the blog/forum/friend belt has tightened and I don't typically expose myself to those types anymore. I am so glad I missed out on the latest disruption--I cannot hold the anger back when it comes to the uninformed anymore, there really is no excuse for it. It is one thing to come to adoption clueless, it is another to let it drag on continually burying your head in the sand and deliberately ignoring issues.
Another friend and I have mentioned having a national conference for people like us, I hope we would have a good turnout...I am not so sure.

Cassi said...

Wendy & Diane,

Thank you so much for your insight. It helps more than you know.

Like you two, I have recently tightened my world too, pulled back from other areas where the back and forth was ongoing. It isn't a permanent situation, I hope, but it was very necessary as I was finding myself dealing more with my anger and frustration than concentrating on having a voice.

That is why I asked this question of you ladies, to try and get an insight to why some have such a hard time with any hint that adoption isn't just about the "happy" reality that is portrayed so often. It becomes such a struggle in one of the more "challenging" forums I used to be in that one of the amom's who actually stands up to speak about the other side of adoption was ridiculed by being called the "Godmother of the birthmother mafia."

Wendy, I would have been one that would have lumped you into my anger for ALL amoms not too long ago. That was me, so angry, so frustrated with being unable to understand why some want to disregard anything that doesn't fit into their "perfect" vision of adoption, that I jumped immediately to disliking a person just for being an amom.

Now, I just want to understand why some feel as they do and instantly go on the attack if someone dares to say anything about loss or grief or sadness in the world of adoption. I need to understand more so that I can reach out more and try to get across the fact that I don't want to hurt or upset amoms but only wish we could all have discussions, such as this, to benefit our children in the way they deserve.

Thank you again ladies. Such kind of discussions between all of us helps me to remember that it isn't an us against them struggle and that I can't even again jump up and be angry with everyone just because of who they might or might not be.