Monday, September 6, 2010

Dear Amanda

Last night the girls and I were looking through the summer issue of Mei Magazine, the mag geared for China adoptees age 7 & up. One regular column in the magazine is the "Ask Amanda" feature, where adoptee & psychologist Amanda Baden answers a letter from an adoptee.  In this issue, the letter was from a girl who writes about confused feelings about her birth mother -- feeling like she should be with her, feeling like she was abandoned by her, feeling curious about her, wanting answers and feeling sad knowing the answers aren't likely.

After we read the letter, Zoe said, "I feel like that sometimes, but I don't feel abandoned!"  I asked why not, and she said, "Because I think my birth parents wanted to keep me but were too poor.  They didn't WANT to give me up!"  Wow, I'm glad Zoe is confident on that point!  I've always been careful to answer her questions truthfully, and truthful is usually "I don't know."  But we have speculated, and even then I'm careful to say "I don't know, but I think or I feel or I guess. . . ."

The final point in the letter is that the girl asks for help in thinking about her adoption in a different way, a way that would make her feel happy.  I asked Zoe if she had any advice for the girl and my smart girl said, "I don't think anything can make her happy all the time;  like, sometimes I'm sad about my birth parents.  But maybe if she knew more about some of the reasons her birth parents might've had for giving her up she wouldn't feel abandoned.  Like maybe her birth parents lived on a farm and were poor or something." [we're working on breaking the "like" habit, but it's slow going!]

But, I said, we don't know why your birth parents or the other girl's birth parents couldn't parent you.  Zoe agreed, but then she said, "We can estimate -- you know, like an estimate isn't like a guess, it's an educated guess? [There's that math learning from 3rd grade!]  We can know, like, all the reasons birth families can't keep their kids and then, like, decide which one feels true for us."

Zoe then decided she wanted to write to Amanda Baden:
Dear Amanda:

Sometimes I cry inside my heart because of my birth parents.  I'm curious about if my birth parents wonder about me.  I wonder about them.  I think maybe my birth parents might've lived on a farm and were too poor to take care of me.  I wonder if it's true.

Curious Forever,
Zoe (not Zoey)
Her email is winging its way to Mei Magazine! Who knows if she'll get an in-print response, but I hope she'll at least get something in reply to her email . . . .

BTW, Amanda Baden gave some of the same advice Zoe suggested -- focusing on the reasons birth parents might choose not to parent, rather than thinking there's something wrong with you that caused them to reject you.  Hmm, maybe I have a budding psychologist . . . .


Amanda said...

I hope Baden answers her question :-) That would be cool. I love Dr. Baden; I think she's awesome.

From my experience as an adoptee, knowing in your head that you were not abandoned and feeling abandonment in your heart are completely separate things. The mind can tell the heart (the emotions) something all it wants and it can logically seem to make the most sense in the world, but you still can't help the way you feel. I was always afraid to say how I was feeling because it conflicted with not only what I knew in my head, but the reasons that everyone around me seemed to understand just fine why I was given up.

When you experience something life-altering, knowing the details can help but it doesn't always make the emotion go away. Any of us can think of life-altering points in our lives and be resolved with the knowledge of the event but still carry an emotion for it.

It just is what it is. Adoption, to me, has always been something that defied all logic.

Mei Ling said...

[I was always afraid to say how I was feeling because it conflicted with not only what I knew in my head, but the reasons that everyone around me seemed to understand just fine why I was given up.]

I often see in adoption-related context that if something can be understood intellectually, then all the emotion regarding it doesn't matter and you should be able to shut all of that off like a night-light switch.

For example, believing that your mother didn't want you because she had "abandoned" you, then learning as an adult that she wanted you but had no help.

Somehow understand that is supposed to make our hearts and emotions flip off like a switch and none of it matters because of the "logical" reasoning.

And this is primarily in adoption context where it is supposed to work. :\