Not A “New” Life

This comment came up in a discussion about how adoptive parents change the name of their adoptee when the adoption is finalized. One woman commented – “Nothing wrong with that, we started using his new name too to get him used to it. New life, new name.” She was quickly corrected – “I need you to fucking not. Adoption isn’t a “new life”, it’s a continuation of the life they are already living. This comment is insensitive at best.” This one had started new childcare job. She is a domestic infant adoptee. One child in her class is in the process of being adopted and that X is their legal name and Y is the name the adoptive parents have chosen to change it to. This child isn’t an infant, so the childcare workers are basically having to train the child to respond to a new name.

I will admit, I did a little sleuthing into the one who made the insensitive comment but could find nothing definite except that she is relatively new in the all things adoption group. There are some interesting photos but nothing certain as to her status in adoptionland but her comment seems to indicate an adoption there.

Lacking that, I looked for some context and found this recent (Oct 2022) article in The Atlantic LINK>Adoption Is Not a Fairy-Tale Ending, with the subtitle – It’s a complicated beginning. While maybe not perfectly what I was looking for, I did see how it begins – In America, popular narratives about adoption tend to focus on happy endings. Poor mothers who were predestined to give their children away for a “better life”; unwanted kids turned into chosen ones; made-for-television reunions years later. Since childhood, these story lines about the industry of infant adoptions had gradually seeped into my subconscious from movies, books, and the news.

The author, Erika Hayasaki, notes – researching a book on identical twins raised in radically different circumstances, the reality of adoption is far more complicated than some might think—and, as many adoptees and scholars have argued, deserving of a more clear-eyed appraisal across American culture. Her book, Somewhere Sisters, chronicles identical twins Isabella and Hà were born in Vietnam in 1998, and their mother struggled to care for them. Isabella (born Loan) was adopted by a wealthy, white American family that gave her a new name and raised her in the suburbs of Chicago. Hà was adopted by a biological aunt and her partner, and grew up in a rural village in Vietnam with sporadic electricity and frequent monsoons.

Twins have always fascinated me. I was born a Gemini and have always wondered what happened to my twin. When I was a child, my 13 month younger sister and I were often dressed alike and sometimes people thought we were twins. When my daughter was preschool age, she used to claim we were twins. I suppose I’ve had at least two surrogate twins in my life. I digress.

The author discovered that when reunions with birth families do happen, they aren’t always happy; they can be painful, confusing, or traumatic. Adoptees who are parents, lawyers, educators, or activists are challenging the rosy image of adoption that stubbornly persists in our culture. Children are not offered up for adoption in a vacuum. Many of them “are available because of certain, very strategic political policies.” Often the reasons for removing children from their parents comes under the heading of “neglect.” Throughout adoption history, this broad category has encompassed homelessness, poor hygiene, absent parents, and drug abuse in some instances, or simply leaving a child with caregivers outside the nuclear family.

A happily ever story after adoption often comes at the cost of forsaking everything that came before. The process, known in the adoptee community as coming out of the fog, refers to when an adoptee starts to see beyond the narrative about fate and question their true feelings about the adoption system, and how it has impacted their relationships, personalities, and identity formation. As the child of two adoptees, I also had my moment of coming out of the fog because adoption had seemed like the most natural thing to me until I was over 50, both of my parents had died and I began to discover my families true origins.

For me, coming out of the fog was, and continues to be, a process that involves simultaneously holding my adoptive grandparent’s love and good intentions in my heart’s memories alongside all the ways that adoption robbed me of what, for most people, is almost an unconsidered common reality. There are all of these contradictory realities within one’s experience of belonging to a family created by adoptions. The duality of that space can be hard for those without such a background to reasonably understand.

Self Indulgent Adoptive Parents

The lead-in to today’s blog expresses an opinion about this couple in my “all things adoption” group.

This is such a self indulgent, sad article to read. It was all focused on what they wanted, conveniently wrapped up as “Gods plan.” They wanted African American twin boys?! They treated adoption like a menu they could pick from, tailor made to suit their requirements. The part that was particularly telling was when she said “one birth mom got in a car accident on the way to the hospital and was in a coma, it was not looking good for us.” An expectant mother has an accident and goes into a coma and all she could think about is – it wasn’t looking good for us?!

This adoptive parent has a huge following on Instagram and regularly uses her children’s stories and adoptee status to promote the brands she partners with. I often wonder what will we hear from these children (and there are many cases of adoptive children being used to promote adoptiove parent platforms), when they grow up.

In one of the comments is a screenshot from the adoptive mother. I don’t even had words for how self-centered the adoptive mother is and yet obviously aware of what is happening to the birth mother – all at the same time. Here are her own words about it.

“The day I posted about bringing the baby home, I explained that those few days in the hospital were hard. There were so many comments on my remarks about why it was hard.”

“Here’s why – two pictures were taken that day the baby was born. One is of me holding the baby with tears in my eyes with the birth mother being held by a nurse because she has tears in her eyes also. I will admit that I was crying because my baby was finally here and yet, I knew at the same time that someone else’s heart was being torn apart.”

What kind of insensitivity acknowledges this so matter of factly. To the adoptive mother’s perspective, the birth mother is only crying because she knows her baby is “where she is supposed to be” (and that is with the adoptive mother – which is plainly NOT, in the natural order of things, true).

She admits that “adoption is every emotion in the book” but admits that “those few days while the baby and the birth mother both remained in the hospital were hard” (and I would suppose, hardest on the birth mother).

She is keeping those pictures for the baby when she is older so that she can know that her original mother’s heart broke. Though the adoptive mother’s perspective is – “so the baby’s heart would not have to be” ? Really ? Staying with her original mother would have been heartbreaking for the child ? This is what entitlement looks like – your baby is better off with me because I am better than you.

The adoptive mother admits that adoption isn’t fair and that it’s hard but she still claims it is beautiful and personal – and like all adoptive parents want to believe – a selfless act on the part of the mother.

Is Gotcha Day Offensive ?

Personally, I have always found this disturbing.  I really can’t believe an adoptive parent thinks like this but it does seem to be a common thing.  I wonder how the child might feel growing up knowing their own birthday wasn’t important.

“We celebrate our children’s Gotcha Day not birthday. The birthdate is the day they were born not when their life began. Gotcha day is what we celebrate and acknowledge as their new birthday. It’s when we became a family, their family. That’s when they were born into our family. Gotcha day is their birth into our family and as their parents. The moment all of our struggle was worth it and forgotten, similar to when a woman gives birth. All the pain washes away, when you finally meet your child”.

One adoptive parent said, “I understand that most people who have not adopted a child simply do not know that their questions may be rude or offensive or not the politically correct adoptive term.”

Families celebrate this day in many different ways and it can vary from a large party type celebration to a minor recognition to nothing at all.  Adoption comes from a place of loss and brokenness.  It also carries with it heavy emotions for everyone involved.

The term “gotcha” is too casual for the arrival of a child into the family. It can be insensitive to all parties involved in the adoption process.

One adoptive parent prefers to use the term Finalization Day but would be equally comfortable with Adoption Day.  Still, she prefers finalization as it’s more specific to what the day actually is.  She also admits that over time this may evolve and change.

As she explains her reasoning, she shares that she and her husband talked about it and put a lot of thought into it.  They arrived at the decision to mark “Finalization Day” on their calendar and to consider it a celebration of the day that their family became whole and complete.

As a somewhat enlightened adoptive parent (I would not say completely enlightened but adoption is going through a definite reform in perspective that is painfully slow for some of us but progress never-the-less) she acknowledges that it is very, very important to always honor her son’s birth family and his story.  However, it’s also not something she wishes to focus on all the time. It’s a PART of who he is and she sincerely hopes it does NOT define him.  Only time and maturity will prove whether that is true or not.

While he’s the original mother’s son and always will be, he’s also their son and their other children’s brother.  It is understandable that she would want him to never feel singled out or like he’s any less loved or less part of their family.

She goes on to admit that it is a very delicate balance. And every adoptive child and adult will feel differently about their adoption journey and story. Each adoptees’ story is special and unique and it’s not a “one size fits all” situation.  Adult adoptees go many directions in how they feel regarding their adoption. That’s honest.

It seems that her hope is that he’ll never, ever want to think or talk about adoption. Maybe he’ll just want to BE and not think deeper about how he came to be who he is. Not consider himself an “adoptee.”  That is probably wishful thinking but oh well.

She goes on to also explain that all of their children have adoption as part of their personal story. They have all been touched by it and are walking this path together.  She acknowledges that as they grow up, they all may have their own thoughts, feelings and questions.  To her credit, she always wants to be an open book with them and readily share anything – at ANY time of the year – that they might want to know.