Perspectives from the mouths of babes. Today’s story (as often is the case, not my own).
I keep thinking about the analogies the six year old in my care (guardianship) shared with me (a month ago and the other day) about the difference between a birth Mum and a guardian Mum.
#1 We were driving in the car chatting and she stated randomly that I’m not her ”actual Mum”
I asked her what does she think “actual” means, she said “real”
I asked what does ”real” mean to her (I ask her what these things mean to her, not to question her/doubt her, but to understand where her mind is at and also quite frankly, to keep any potential offence in myself at bay, so I know exactly what she’s saying and not just what I’m reading into things)
She replied “you know how you have real plants and fake plants? Well the real plant is the real Mum”
I replied “so does that make me the fake plant?”
“Uhhhhh” was her reply, we both burst into laughter, “it’s okay babe, I’m okay to be your fake plant”
#2 “You know how you can have a thick ladder? That’s an actual Mum, one who gave birth to a baby. Then there’s a thin ladder, who didn’t give birth… that’s you”
I could be thinking deeper into deeper than necessary, but this is what I hear.
• A thick ladder – you can climb up each step without hesitation, you trust it to hold your weight, it was created well for the job at hand •
• A thin ladder – you’ll be slower to climb it, making sure it’s sturdy enough to hold you, you’ll be unsure on each step wondering will this hold ?, it will likely need some reinforcements at some point to keep it functioning well and safely •
Oh the mind of this incredible and sore in her bones six year old.
I was adopted from foster care when I was 12. I was adopted into the same home as one of my biological sisters. Being adopted was the only way I could stay with my younger sister, so I consented. I knew my first family, as I lived with them to the age of ten. Having to leave them, especially my siblings, destroyed me.
Nearly as bad was the family I ended up with. My adoptive mom berated me constantly, and could be very cruel. I was told that my sister and I weren’t wanted, and that’s why my mother kept her other (three younger) kids but gave us up. That we were lucky that she chose us. The day of the adoption she told me that my life now was between her and Jesus.
I have a good relationship with my biological mom and stepdad, and their kids. I love them, and they love me back with a kind of enthusiasm that I never experienced in my adoptive home. Awhile back, my adoptive mom sent me a message, trying to apologize. It was painful, but it made me know for sure that things were as bad as I thought they were.
From the adoptive mom –
A couple of years ago we sat in the livingroom and I made an attempt at making an amends with you. I thought if I had stopped drinking and stayed sober, then the past was the past.
At the beginning, when you moved into our home, I made a feeble attempt at reaching out to you. You cringed and would not trust me, would not call me mom. You already had a mom and I had not even showed I was a safe person. I couldn’t and didn’t listen to your silent pain.
I know I verbally and emotionally abused you. You went to therapy but it didn’t work and I was glad because I did not want my neglect to be exposed. I knew I was guilty for causing the demons that haunted you.
At the height of your anorexia, you were hospitalized and yet I was jealous of you. I know I was insane. It was my own mental illness more than the alcoholism.
I just wanted to tell you that I am so ashamed of not giving you the childhood you deserved. It was my loss, I never really got to know you. I take none of the credit for your strength.
Toyota featured the story of Jessica Long, 13 time Paralympic Gold Medalist. Born in Siberia and due to a rare condition, had to have her legs amputated, Jessica Long has inspired people with her story.
Toyota tells through a reenactment how her adoptive mother found out that she would need to have her legs amputated.
“Mrs. Long. We found a baby girl for your adoption,” says a woman on the phone with Long’s onscreen mother. “But there are some things you need to know. She’s in Siberia and she was born with a rare condition.”
“Her legs will need to be amputated,” the woman adds as the scenes play out floating in water while Long swims. “Her legs will need to be amputated. I know this is difficult to hear. Her life, it won’t be easy.”
The commercial then shifts to Long winning a race as her mother watches from the kitchen table.
“It might not be easy, but it’ll be amazing,” Long’s mom says. “I can’t wait to meet her.”
The commercial voiceover then adds, “We believe there is hope and strength in all of us.”
During an interview with People magazine back in 2016, the swimmer said – “Winning gold medals is incredible and obviously it’s what I want to do, but there’s something so special about having a little girl who has just lost her leg from cancer come up and tell me I’m her hero.”
Clearly, it is her physical disability that informs Jessica’s identity much more than the fact of her adoption.
“It took me years to realize that if I act ashamed and I try to hide them people kind of react the same way,” she added. “But if I wear my shorts or a cute summer dress and I show off my legs and I’m willing to talk about it, people are engaged and they want to know about my story.”
The renowned athlete was adopted by Americans from a Russian orphanage at 13 months old. At 18 months old, her legs were amputated below the knees. In total, she’s won 29 gold medals, 8 silver medals and 4 bronze ones.
As a blogger, the only question that I had was whether any pro-adoption group helped fund the commercial or suggested the idea to Toyota. Just a hint of cynicism but otherwise, I love the story of overcoming life’s realities with determination. However, there may be no connection with that kind of organization.
In 2013, Jessica Long traveled with her younger sister to meet her birth parents, who were teenagers when Long was born Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova. It was a three-day journey to her Russian adoption center and then an 18-hour train ride to what would have been her Siberian hometown. “Long Way Home” (the story of her journey) premiered on primetime during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.
Jessica says this about her adoption – “When I first see my Russian family, I want them to know that I’m not angry with them, that I’m not upset that they gave me up for adoption,” Long said in the film, before a tearful, hug-filled reunion. “I think that was really brave, and I don’t know what I would have done if I was in her situation, at 16 and having this disabled baby that they knew that they couldn’t take care of. I want to tell her that when I see her that, if anything, I have so much love for her, my mom, because she gave me life.”
And I’ve learned a bit more of Jessica’s adoption back story – her teenaged parents were persuaded to give her up, with doctors telling the mother that she was “still young” and would be able “to give birth to a normal child.” This is disgusting. This is why so many kids end up in ‘orphanages’, not because they don’t have parents, but because of lack of support, ablism and/or poverty. And even sadder is this, her mother said, “Of course I was against leaving her in the hospital but because of the circumstances we had to do so. In my heart I did want to take her home, and thought I would take her back later.” This belief that their child will return to them someday is a common occurrence in international adoptions.
There is of course, some questionable motivation when a car company wanting to sell more cars uses these kinds of themes. For those closest to the situations, it is absolutely a triggering commercial – hit notes on adoption, orphans, and a special needs person. At the same time, it is a perfect little story wrapped in a bow, delectable, and very palatable for the masses who gobble it up. General society and adoptive parents as well as the hopeful adoptive parents always love a “poor little orphan finds a home” story.
A hopeful adoptive parent is quoted as saying “Adoption is a beautiful way to grow a family because it takes great strength and sacrifice.”
What does that even mean ?
It is NOT the adoptive parents who make the sacrifices, even if they consider the financial impact on their lives of having adopted as some kind of sacrifice. Or if they think of their infertility – the giving up of having genetically related children – as some kind of sacrifice.
What do they sacrifice ? Most don’t even lose money because they crowed fund and stuff to raise money to adopt (yes, fundraising from strangers so you can adopt someone else’s baby is a thing). And even if a foster care adoption, they either get a “free” young child or if they adopt an older child or young child with issues. The adoptive parents receive money until the child(ren) is 18 to help offset the cost of raising them. People raising their biological child are not afforded that luxury.
You know who gets sacrificed ? The child.
And a sign of our current time ?
Social distancing is the default setting for ALL adoptees due to separation trauma. Consider it an insight into how it feels to be adopted.
If you as an adoptive parent need some kind of recognition for adopting a child, then you absolutely did it for the wrong reason.
Becoming adopted will never be a natural circumstance. There is a loss of security and certainty in having been adopted that cannot be prevented. For whatever reason, an adoptee has been torn away from those who gave themselves to that life.
There cannot be other than a sense of abandonment and rejection. And not knowing the reasons and causes only makes it worse. That is why closed adoptions are not good and yet, there are fears attached to open adoptions as well. A fear of intrusion and difficult people making difficult demands and confusion as to who holds the authority over one’s life.
Life is a hard school. There’s no denying that. Adoptees have to contend with some harsh realities, no matter how much those people who do care about them try to minimize the effects.
Some will crumble under the reality and some will find within their own self a strength that requires no one else. Some will find the way to make the most of a bad situation and some will fight and struggle against what is all the days of their life.
While every person born faces challenges, those faced by adoptees are an added layer of complication that only they can meet and must meet in their own personal efforts to somehow rise above.
Someone once asked me, if the adoptive family was a good one, what’s the issue ?
People not affected by adoption often struggle to understand what would motivate an adoptee to go searching for their original family. If one knows where they came from, it can be hard to relate to not knowing.
An adoptee that grows up in a loving, supportive family, will be strong enough to search for who they came from. If their adoptive family was a very good one, they might even expect that they would not like what their search found once they arrive there.
Maybe it would help to understand that this kind of experience was never intended to replace the adoptive family the adoptee grew up in. Yet any adoptee will feel that they have a few “missing” pieces. It is only natural. And once a puzzle has been revealed, completing it makes sense.