I read on a blog today about someone who just sent in their paperwork for adoption. They’re taking classes related to adoption, and one of the topics discussed was how your answers to questions sound to the child. For example, why did you adopt? If your answer is all about infertility, then the child might think they were your second choice, so you have to be careful about how you frame your response.
It got me thinking. Not from the potential mother’s standpoint, but from the adopted child. I think Hubs and I are a long way from deciding to adopt – I feel like we have a long path ahead of us before we make that choice. But all this talk of adopting from blogs I read makes me think about my own history.
I was adopted when I was four years old. My birth parents weren’t young – they were poor, homeless, and addicts. Well-meaning, just not really prepared to be parents. (As an example, I spoke with my birth mother a few years ago for the first time since I was four, and she wanted to make sure that I knew that she didn’t have any alcohol while she was pregnant. Then she said, “I might have smoked a little weed, but I didn’t drink!” OK, birth mother – so much better! Really???) She tried to keep me, and she and my birth father both tried to raise me when I was little, but we were homeless on the streets of L.A., more specifically Venice Beach. When I was about 1-2 years old, I started wandering off at night by myself, and people would pick me up and take me to the police. This was the beginning of my foster home life. I’ve been told I was in 18 different foster homes before I was adopted. Social services kept trying to convince my birth mom to put me up for adoption, but she didn’t want to give me up, but she couldn’t take care of me either. After a couple of years, she finally agreed to put me up for adoption, but by then, I had been in the foster system so long, was considered old in the adoption world, and had developed enough health and behavioral issues (malnourished, teeth rotting out, acting out) that nobody was interested in adopting me.
Meanwhile, my adoptive mom and dad (hereafter referred to as just Mom and Dad – after all, they are the ones who raised me – they’re the only people in my life deserving of those titles) determined that she couldn’t get pregnant (Dad already had a kid from a previous marriage) so they looked into adoption agencies, but they were told that Mom was too old to adopt a baby. She was 32 or 33. (Thank goodness times have changed – that was in the late 70’s – I’m 34 now…) So they were about to give up, when they met someone who knew the social worker on my case. Long story short, I came to live with my parents right after my fourth birthday.
My mom should not have been a mother. I feel so much guilt when I say that, but I believe it, and I’ve always believed it – about her. I sometimes have a hard time reconciling that to what I believe about myself and my own infertility, but I believe she should not have adopted me, especially considering I had problems and was very difficult, I’m sure. She didn’t know how to be a mother, and I think she thought that she should be a mother, but didn’t really want to be one. In her defense, I think she tried to an extent, or at least as much as she could, but she failed miserably – she will even admit that a little now. I won’t go into it all right now, but I want to talk about the words that came out of her mouth related to my adoption. Obviously as I was adopted when I was four, there wasn’t a time when we had the big reveal to tell me I was adopted – it was something that was always discussed, and I think that the first couple years that I lived with my parents was very difficult, as I had a hard time adjusting. Things settled down when I was about six, and both my mom and I remember the time from when I was six to ten as good years. Then it got worse.
Kids all over the world start to rebel in their pre-teen and teenage years, and I know I was not a huge joy to be around during that time. But she didn’t help. I remember during arguments she would tell me all the time, “I wish you would go back to where you came from,” and “I wish I never had you.” These are bad, I know, but I also remember how painful the stories were to hear about how she couldn’t get pregnant, and she had to resort to adoption. About how once she decided to adopt that she really wanted a baby, that maybe if she had adopted a baby instead of a four-year old child, it would have been easier. And that I was too old to be adopted, and she was too old to adopt, so we were meant to be together – she thought that was the really cute part of the story – she told that line to everyone. All I knew is it hurt that nobody wanted me, and she didn’t really want me either…
I know this story is extreme, and all you adoptive moms out there aren’t like my mom, and will be very careful with your words. But please try to look at it from your child’s perspective. Try to understand the desire to be wanted. No matter what, you can’t take away the pain of knowing their birth parents didn’t want them, but you can try to let them know every day how much you wanted, and STILL want them.