The family I was born into is heavily affected by adoption. Until I learned about the truth related to my mom’s adoption, I never thought much about how the mothers who gave up a baby to adoption were affected by what happened. I never thought about how it might have affected both of my sisters who each gave up a baby to adoption.
My first exposure was reading Lorraine Dusky’s book A Hole in My Heart. We have since become friends on Facebook and I know a lot more about what happened to her than only what she wrote in that book. She has been an activist for opening the sealed records in the state of New York. The effort was recently successful. Almost half of these United States continue to obstruct adoptees from knowing the truth of their origins. Adoptees are treated like second-class citizens denied the basic human rights that most people unaffected by adoption never give a second thought.
A friend in my writer’s guild once asked me at a conference as we were discussing my manuscript project, what does it matter if someone was adopted if their adoptive parents were good people and their childhood fortunate ? As I explained it to her, she understood in her own way that her genetic origins were simply something she took for granted. Whether she cared to know anything at all about her heritage, it was accessible to her. Not so for the adoptee.
The more contact I have with women who have lost their children to adoption, the more I understand the lifelong regret, sorrow and pain this causes them. Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Too often people think the problem that is today will always stay a problem forever. Change is constant, so that perception is never the truth but it is easy to lose sight of that in extreme need.
Not only do many mothers never know what became of their child, many adoptees exist in a black hole. If they know they were adopted (which is generally the case in our modern times and even for both of my parents, adopted in the 1930s, they knew they had been adopted even though they never learned anything about their own origins), there is this strange kind of existence and knowing they are not related to the people who are “their family” and genetic heritage ? the heritage that is their adoptive family’s possession, it isn’t their heritage.
And sadly, when one finally does know the heritage, as I have been blessed to discover my own (know all 4 original grandparents and something about each of their stories) and have contact now with true genetic relations, I don’t feel fully as though I belong to these families. We have no shared history. It is as though I’ve been robbed twice. Though I am grateful to at least have the truth now and not a false identity.
Conflicted feelings when I first learned I was pregnant
I gave birth to my baby and once the infant was born,
I became that child’s mother.
A mere signature on a surrender paper and
the adoption that followed can never undo that.
I had a baby and I gave that baby away
but I am a mother.
~ A Hole in my Heart by Lorraine Dusky
It is a very sad story and worth reading.
A lifetime of regrets, of unintended consequences that are channeled in an activism, so that others do not have to go through the same experience.
I have learned so much about the impacts of adoption on ALL parties to it. Not one of the triad escapes some effect. Not the adoptee who never had a say in what happened to them. Not the original parents who will never be able to know their child in the intimate way most parents do. Not the adoptive couple who may receive more than they originally bargained for – wounds they can’t see nor understand because they are foreign to any concept of parenting they may have entered in with.
In her book – A Hole in My Heart – Lorraine Dusky notes “You would be surprised how many little blond girls there are in the world when you are not looking for them. They are everywhere, filling your sightline like a chorus line of charming little dolls, reminding, mocking, making you aware of what you are missing, what you have done.
You stare at them, check out their clothes, absorb their little-girl movements and words.
The girl in the coffee shop with her mother. Another at the supermarket. Creating a scene at the mall. The daughter of a friend of someone you are dating, you can’t take your eyes off her, blonde, fine-bones and only a few months older than yours.”
Questions haunt a mother who has given up her child to adoption – Are my daughter’s parents good to her ? How is she ? Who does she look like ? Is she blonde like me ? Does she have my flat feet and his blue eyes ?
It is more than the girls themselves – an invitation to a baby shower. A picture of a baby in a magazine. Forsythia in a flower shop window. A family reunion.
I have this secret that makes me – different. Alien. Deep inside me there is a gnawing sense that I must find my daughter one day. Surely I am not the only one in this private hell.
It is good that the trend now is for – at the least – open adoptions. And there are activists among those who were adopted themselves trying to reform the system to make adoption rare, if at all.
It is good. It will stop some of the pain . . . as a society, we should care about our mothers and children more than we do.
Surely I am not the only one in this private hell.
Are my daughter’s parents good to her ? How is she ? Who does she look like ? Is she blonde like me ? Does she have my flat feet and her father’s blue eyes ?
~ some thoughts from A Hole in My Heart by Lorraine Dusky
When my mom tried and failed to learn about her own origins, since she was adopted as a very young child, she said to me once “As a mother, I would want to know what happened to my child.”
And that is a valid need in a mother who has relinquished her child for adoption.
Even if one didn’t do that but life changed the custody circumstances, I know myself, that when I would try to buy a birthday card for my daughter, so much of what it said simply wasn’t true of our experiences as a mother and a daughter who spent that childhood separated.
I didn’t have any role models for how to be an absentee mother during the years that was my involuntary experience.