Over the past few years I've gotten many letters from male-adoptees telling me about the sad confusion they felt after the birth of their own children. The overwhelming grief shared by these men was in the question of "How?" "How does a woman get rid of her baby? How does a mother do that to her own son?"
As a mom and adoptee, I had no real answers other than my own perspective on pregnancy and parenthood. They are in all deeds, two different things that men cannot experience and appreciate. For this reason, I believe boys suffer from abandonment more than they do from adoption. The question is: who is teaching these boys they were abandoned?
I think all adoptees have a source of anger and confusion that's rooted in Relinquishment; I believe it's a human-conditioning we were forced to have born within us. I also believe adopted boys see and suffer the aftermath of adoption differently than adopted girls do. As a mom to both sons and daughters, I see how boys need their moms differently than girls do, and I see how boys seek the comfort only their mommy can give them. They do it in a way that's meek yet manly. Truthfully, the difference in dynamics between boys and their moms, and girls with their moms is indeed stunning, so I cannot help but wonder if a pattern of fear related to A Woman's Rejection leads itself to a subsequent sense of failure that plagues the male adoptee more than it does the female? For example, until the male is nurtured by another woman, is the loss of safe Maternal Love felt by the son in a way that leaves him forever in need of replacing itself? If a boy is in want and need of maternal softness, but can't find it... what does he do? I think in many cases, the boy will act-out in aggressive, angry, determined ways that ultimately hurt and frustrate him more than they help him find what it is he seeks and needs.
I think the issues of biology affect sons and daughters of adoption differently. How could they not? Let's take Pregnancy. Boys don't grow to become men who have babies; males cannot conceive and become pregnant. Men have no biologic-connection that compares to the type of bonding experience a woman has growing and developing 10 months inside her body before formal-introductions take place on her baby's birth-day. It wasn't until I myself experienced pregnancy that I learned the power of a pregnancy. It wasn't until I was "with child" that I realized how much I missed and needed my biologic mom. During the 40 weeks of pregnancy, everything in the mind and body of a female changes in a way that no adoptee can be prepared for, no matter how strong the adoptive bond and experience has become. For me, and for the many dads with whom I have had this discussion, Adoption affects Parenthood in ways that makes us feel like alien-creatures of the reproducing kind. We want to get-over The Adoption Thing, it just won't let us.
I learned the power and strength of my natural mom's love for me, when I was pregnant. I learned it's impossible to forget a baby's birth day; I learned adoption takes and gives secrets away in ways that are haunting and magical, all at the same time; and I learned adoption isn't a singular event that happened once to me. As a parent, I discovered just how much Adoption infiltrates and effects each year I live not knowing what was before me. I experienced 3 full-term pregnancies. I birthed four babies. I lost one before I was able to tell anyone I was pregnant. I learned there's nothing more powerful than the changes pregnancy creates inside the body and mind of a soon-to-be mom. The 40 weeks a single pregnancy requires of a woman... the changes she must withstand and endure... these lessons in love that no man, sadly, will ever understand... all are testimony that God chooses life to continue in spite of our ignorance and stupidity. There's a Before and After that takes place for the pregnant woman that is unlike anything else in this world. Pregnancy makes a mom out of a girl, whether she delivers a live healthy baby and keeps that baby, or not. Never is a girl changed more than she is the moment she learns a baby is growing inside her body.
How does a woman forget her baby? She doesn't. Her body won't let her. I remember my OB/GYN telling me, "It takes 10 months for your body to build a baby; it takes 10 months for the body to recover from that baby-building". He was right. No matter how much I wanted to resume my pre-pregnant body, nature had a way of reminding me, "not yet, missy!"
For each child adopted, there is a woman mourning the loss of a body-part that requires a certain amount of time to heal. I couldn't imagine that recovery process without my babies. I imagine that being a time of profound torture.
I remember being shocked with the idea of leaving the hospital with my first-born. "You mean, I take her with me?" It took a long time for me to accept my baby was my own, to have and to hold for each day and beyond. I had to be told it was OK to keep what was mine. I remember not saying much out-loud to people, because I was afraid they'd think I was unfilt to mother my own baby... but Adoption has always had a way of reminding me who I was, and who I wasn't. I was allowed to live like a Normal Person, but I wasn't allowed to know what it was like to live and be with the woman who birthed me. When a child is raised to believe "Family is everything", not knowing Mom is a real burden based in loss and sadness. The imballance of injustice is fed and felt when the adoptee meets his/her own baby. It's as sureal a moment any one could fathom it to be. "Son/Daughter, look at yourself when you were a baby." What do we do with that moment? We swallow, and digest it the best we can, and we wonder.
I remember one of the oddest realizations I had when I first became pregnant was my ability to even become pregnant. For some reason, that possibility escaped me. Maybe I felt that my a.mother's hysterectomy, and gynocologic history would affect my ability to have babies of my own... I don't know... I just know Pregnancy brought not just a new-baby into the family, but with it also came the old wounds that never got cleansed or filled with truth and closure. Suddenly past-sins became very prominent in my life, and blood became deeply personal and different. I became suddenly possessive over all that was mine; my own lost lineage became an issue, and I was suddenly keenly aware of all the loss that was biologically Mine. I became A Mom, without the rights most moms get carved in stone, and blood, and that bothered me. A lot. For instance, when my first was born, my mother noticed how blue my daughter's eyes were. The very first comment she made when she saw my baby was, "Oh look! She has MY blue eyes!"
No. Those eyes do not belong to you, my adoptive mother; they reflect my own family's gene-pool. Those blue eyes belong to my parent's genetics mix and my husband's. I remember distinctly making that biologic connection the moment I saw my daughter's blue eyes. My parents have blue-eyed people in their family. Wow. That was surprising, given that I always had brown hair and brown eyes. A new color was introduced to my world, and it came form my natural parents. Whodda thunk I'd learn such a detail, since I was never allowed to discover this information for myself. Searching for my family was never encouraged. In fact, it was discouraged with, "What do you want to know about Those People? We're your Family, that's all you need to know."
Whether Adoption alters a person's desire to have children of his/her own is not really clear. For myself, I needed to have a biologic root and connection to someone. If blood is indeed thicker than water, I wanted blood. I thought having a baby of my own would satiate that need I felt for blood-connection. Instead, it brought new problems and issues I never would have imagined for myself. Children have a way of doing that to their parents, especially if those children are born with health problems.
You see, for the adoptee-parent, Adoption is a process of discovery and recovery that continues throughout the life-cycles of the parent and each child that adoptee greets as his/her Own. Yes... we finally get to own and keep something God ordained for us. As a result we have an on-going natural curiosity about our own children that gets lost to the broken lineage adoption keeps giving us. Unless reunion takes place, these gaps in tracing traits and unknown origins of illness become sad reminders of what will never be known, found, or completely understood (or misunderstood).
Adoption without reunion becomes the problem our sons and daughters have to carry, as they are given only half a genetic equation. I remember when my oldest was having kidney problems, the doctor asked if there was a medical history indicating such would be related to her condition. Once again, I had to respond: "I don't know, I was adopted." A mother should know these things about her baby. A person should know these things about his/her self. Adoption has erased that right from us. Medically, we are misfits of unknown origins. Did anyone during the Closed Era of adoption ever take this into consideration: that we, too, would like to get married and have babies of our own, without fear and worry of genetic mutation, complication or illness?
Even if an adoptee chooses the Search and Reunion route before marriage and parenting, there is no Winning for the child lost to an adoption based on secrets, lies and red-tape. One never knows what list of surprises Adoption agents bequeath the once unified team of Mother and Baby until either party dares to open that Pandora's Box of parental responsibility.
For male-adoptees, I think Adoption and Parenthood introduce especially confusing issues of loss that do not get shared nearly enough in forums where Adoption Issues get discussed. For instance: I wonder how many male adoptees feel and fear female rejection because of the rejection he may feel his natural mom had of him? After all, isn't it bad enough money, looks and talent one has (or doesn't have) all effect a man's sense of value and worth? Does being adopted add to that pressure a man feels presenting a love interest? I wonder too, how parenting for the male adoptee differs for the female adoptee. As females, we get to experience first hand what it may have been like for our moms, being pregnant and having to make a choice. I wonder how many men understand how that may not have been "a choice" made by their own Mom's?
Above all, I wonder how differently we all would have seen all Future Relationships, had Adoption not been an option for our fate, but rather better care and support was given to women and their children? After all, what female gets pregnant without the help of a man? Seems to me the simple solution of maintaining Family Values through personal responsibility and accountability got lost when it was discovered that a child's worth could be measured in dollars and cents and was seen in terms of supply and demand. I'm told that adoption in 2007 still has no standardized practice. If that's the case, what sort of trends and traditions will future families have to adapt to because adoption changed the landscape of "what's ours remains ours"?
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