Posted in Essay, General Interest, Guest Writer, memoir

Some Thoughts on Adoption

Editorial Note: In April 2013, John Nooney wrote a series on his adoption. We think his message is an important one and he agreed to cut the 12,000 word feature down to 1,000 words to accommodate the needs of this site, a frankly heroic effort and something for which we are most appreciative. After reading this post, you may wish to read the longer piece on John’s blog HERE and we encourage you to do so. The details are interesting and thought-provoking.

hands-together-871294932977UgO“Have you found your birth-mother?” is, more often than not, the first thing people ask me when I mention I am an adopted child.

Think about that.

When you share information about yourself, it is the first response that matters most; the first reply has the biggest emotional impact.

So, if the first response to news of adoption is wanting to know if you’ve found your birth-mother (often stated as Real Mother), one begins to feel they need to seek her out.

People ask this particular question, breathless with excited anticipation of an affirmative answer — they’re wanting a feel good story, with a big, bold headline: “Adopted Child Reunited With Real Mother!”

The question ends up making me feel as if the asker somehow views my adoptive parents (the people I think of as my only parents) as being inferior to Real Parents. It’s like they imagine I was kidnapped from my Real Mother, raised by people pretending to be my parents, and that I need to be rescued and returned to The Real Parents.

It’s insane.

And, it’s hurtful.

I’ve not spent much time thinking about my birth-parents. Sure, I’m curious what they look like, what their story is, and, more importantly, what their medical history is, so I know what to watch for. Other than that, I have little interest in them. Not for bad reasons — I don’t hate them for giving me up for adoption. I think my birth-mother made the best choice she knew how to make at the time. When people want to know if I’ve sought her out, I begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Am I supposed to find her? Is there supposed to be a yearning for my Real Mother’s loving arms?

They say mothers have an unbreakable bond with the child they carried in their womb, that they’d do anything to protect that child. Am I, as the child in the womb, supposed to have that same unbreakable bond?

I don’t feel that bond.

I thought of searching, but when I began to think about the consequences of finding my birth-mother, I lost interest. What if she was married to a billionaire? Would I then hate my middle-class roots? What if she turned out to be a meth-addicted prostitute? How would I feel then? Knowledge can be dangerous. I was scared of what I might find — and what I might or might not feel.

I’ve spent many helpful hours in therapy over the years, though I’ve left several therapists because they’ve tried to convince me that my issues started by being abandoned by my birth-mother; that even though I was newborn, I was able to sense her abandoning of me, and its impact is at the root of many of my issues.

One thing I have absolutely no doubt about: I do not feel that my birth mother abandoned me.

We don’t know what communication passes between mother and fetus —  though we often surmise. Perhaps because giving up a child is such a gut-wrenching decision for a mother, the trauma she feels imprints itself on her unborn child, and, perhaps, leaves some children with a sense of an emotional abandonment

Maybe there is a reverse that is also true: maybe a mother can tell her unborn child that it is being given up for the best reasons, that the decision she is making is one made out of an unimaginable love — a love that wants her child to have a home better than the one she can provide. And, maybe, communicating that love can leave an adopted child feeling that it hasn’t been abandoned, but that it is a child, being given as a gift — a great gift.

Sentimental claptrap? Maybe.

Our society runs on the belief of individuality. We take pride that we’re all different, that everyone’s story is not the same. Yet, we’ll try to claim that every adopted child should feel abandoned? It makes no sense. We are either all different, with different stories, or we’re not.

Growing up, my mother told me a story:
“There was a man and a woman who loved each other very much. They wanted to have a family, but, unfortunately they couldn’t have kids. One day, they got a phone call — there was a young woman who was having a baby, but, she was young, and was struggling to make ends meet. She wanted her baby to have a better home than she was able to give him. She knew that the man and woman would give her baby a loving home. So, the man and woman got on a plane, and, when they came home, they had the young girl’s baby with them. They were very happy to have him, and they loved him very much. There are many kids in this world who live in homes where they aren’t loved or wanted,” my mom would say, “and adopted children are special: they’re wanted very much.”

Mom would ask if I knew who the man and woman were, and I’d say “you and dad”.  It was a story I liked to told, and would often ask to hear it.  I especially liked the ending: they were happy to have him; they loved him.
Adoption gives birth to thoughts and feelings across the emotional spectrum: from feelings of profound love, to feelings of despair and abandonment. Mixed in with those feelings, at least for me, is a sense of loyalty to the people who adopted me, who opened their hearts and home to me. Along with that sense of loyalty goes a sense of obligation: to believe that adoption is ok, that it’s a wonderful, loving thing. I grew up in an environment that felt loving, so it was something I never questioned.

I’m adopted, but it doesn’t change the fact that my family is as much a family as anyone else’s family.  We’ve managed to look past the wounds and the scars that all families accumulate over the years. I like to think that in spite of all the pain and hurt, that when we look at each other, we see the love, see the strength of a love that’s been tested and that still holds us together.

This is my telling of one person’s adoption: mine. I am in no way trying to say that my words apply to all adopted children. My opinions on adoption may be different than yours — and, that’s ok. Adoption, just like any other family issue, is unique to each individual and each family. Please do not interpret my words as a generalization of the experiences of all adopted children. This is my tale, my story, my thoughts.  

– John Nooney

(c) 2013, feature article, John Nooney, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Vera Kratochvil, Public Domain Pictures.net

unnamed-3JOHN NOONEY (Johnbalaya) ~ lives in Aurora, Colorado with his partner of thirteen years, his ninety-year-old mother and their three dogs.

Author:

The focus of "The BeZine," a publication of The Bardo Group Beguines, is on sacred space (common ground) as it is expressed through the arts. Our work covers a range of topics: spirituality, life, death, personal experience, culture, current events, history, art, and photography and film. We share work here that is representative of universal human values however differently they might be expressed in our varied religions and cultures. We feel that our art and our Internet-facilitated social connection offer a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters, and not as “other.” This is a space where we hope you’ll delight in learning how much you have in common with “other” peoples. We hope that your visits here will help you to love (respect) not fear. For more see our Info/Mission Statement Page.

12 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Adoption

  1. I read John’s blog, and I’ve found it to be very educational for me, an adoptive parent to two. (FWIW, our adoptions are open, so my kids know their birth families.) I really appreciate John and other adult adoptees who share their thoughts with the world.

    “Yet, we’ll try to claim that every adopted child should feel abandoned? It makes no sense. We are either all different, with different stories, or we’re not.”
    Exactly! I’m in an adoption-related Facebook group, and two adoptees were saying that they never felt the need to search, never felt “the primal wound,” and never felt the need to know who their birth parents were. A third adoptee called them liars. She said she didn’t believe them, and if they really did think that they thought that, they were deluding themselves. Everyone’s story *is* different, and we all need to respect one another’s stories.

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  2. Jamie, thanks for posting my tale … and, to those of you who commented, thank you. I have no admin rights on this site, so I cannot reply directly to each of your comments … but, thank you for taking the time to read my tale, and for taking the time to share your thoughts. Both are much appreciated….

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  3. John, you’ve touched on at least one important ethical and moral issue here, which is your assertion that we are all different; our circumstances are unique to us and therefore generalisations are always inappropriate (I think the press are the worst culprits of generalisation; applying the feelings of one to the population … to sell their story!). The decision as to whether of not an adopted person wishes to find their birth mother (or father), is entirely in the hands of the individual so affected. I am grateful for what life has given me. It is very clear from this that you are too and appreciative of the love you have received. Thank you for sharing this well written piece with us.

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  4. Dear John, I just commented on your reblog of this post.

    As an adoptive mom, this made me smile. Like adopted kids, we too have our insecurities. But we love our son. And that is truly what adoption is all about, isn’t it.

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  5. John, I find so much wisdom in your point of view. I hadn’t thought of some of the possible consequences of knowing those roots just as “what if they were billionaires.” My dad was killed in action. When my mother remarried, my new dad adopted me. I never felt he was anything other than a loving father to me and shudder when people will ask me if I liked my “step-father.” I could never had used that name for him. He was just my dad.

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  6. Reblogged this on Johnbalaya and commented:
    In April of 2013, I wrote a multi-part story on adoption: adoption in general, but, specifically, the story of my adoption and its impact on my family, and my life. Jamie Dedes of The Bardo Group asked me if I could take a theme from the 12,000 word series, and pare it down to about 1,000 words, capturing what she felt was the most important message of the piece. Being one who always enjoys a challenge, I accepted. This morning, my shortened version appeared on The Bardo Magazine. Stop by and take a look — not just at my story, but some of the interesting things featured on their wonderful blog.

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  7. To believe oneself “worthy of love and belonging” is the criteria for living whole-heartedly, according to Brene Brown. This is a great illustration of what that might look like.

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