Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Adoption is The Wrong Word!

There is extreme backlash against anything that can be labelled "anti-adoption," even when it is merely speaking FOR the equal rights of those adopted!

After all, how can any sane sensible person say anything negative about the magical, airy-fairy, warm fuzzy, win-win process of an "unwanted,"abandoned or abused, "orphan" being "rescued" and "saved" by loving parents? Shouldn't we all just - gratefully - sing its praises?

And yet, there is another side of adoption that is far less pretty and thus hidden away and unspoken: loss, separation, grief, feelings of rejection and unworthiness.

Paul Sunderland an addiction and relationship counselor at LifeWorks community hits the nail on the head when he says: "Adoption is the wrong word." When we are talking about the difficulties adoptees have that cause them to be over-represented in all sorts of mental health facilities and particularly in addiction treatment, it is not "adoption" that is at the root of their dilemma, it is RELINQUISHMENT! Watch his lecture!

At the very heart of every child being "chosen" - rescued, saved - is a child who knows - who senses on a cellular preverbal level - he has been rejected, unwanted, unworthy of being loved by the one person in the world who is supposed to love him unconditionally: his Mother.  This creates the shame that is at the cure of all addictive and all self-destructive behavior.

There is loss, separation anxiety; there is untold, denied grief... and there is SHAME in the act of relinquishment and being relinquished.

Sunderland argues that the same is true for all parties in adoption. Adoptive parents who have struggled with infertility suppress their grief over the disappointment of not being able to create their own child, and of course mothers and fathers who loose children to adoption have gaping holes of grief that has no formal ritual or allowable expression in any public or familial way....no condolences cards, no one saying the simple "I'm sorry for your loss"; no help to properly grieve. In fact, mothers often experience societal shunning and continued, lifelong shaming. How can any mother let her child go?

The pain of relinquishment cuts very deep down to our core, our essence as a human being.

Sunderland says:
"It's not so much what happens to you in life that throws you, it's actually how secure your beginnings are. It's a bit like the storm analogy. In a storm, the trees don't blow down just because the wind is strong. The ones that blow down blow down because the roots aren't strong enough to hold them up."
What an apt metaphor!  For indeed adoption severs one at their very roots. Uprooted from heritage, lineage, all who look and sound - and smell - like you. How utterly and totally disorienting!

We need to speak about this albeit with the proper words: the relinquishment that underlies and underpins every adoption. Yet too often adoptive parents want to think of the process only from their perspective. And why not? The word adopt means "to take as one's own." Nothing in the word adoption expresses the loss necessary for the taking. Thus, as Sunderland notes, it is often the wrong word. It is not so much adoption that is being opposed by reformers, but the destruction of the family of origins that underpins it.

Many who adopt admit not consciously wanting think of the all-too-often unseen foreign mother. many in fact admit choosing International adoption to prevent any contact with a mother who represents great fear of coming between adoptive mother and child in a very real sense of changing her mind, snatching the child back, or reuniting with later.  Out of sight is out of mind, for too many whop adopt today, though the fears remain deep in the unconscious psyche and are unseen elephants the whole family lives with, as are the ghosts of the "real" children the adopters never saw come to pass and the adoptee's job is to compete with.

Like a plant cutting, sometimes the uprooted child takes root well where it is transplanted, and sometimes not so well. And often an adoption looks and feels like a banana growing on a cherry tree.

Sunderland speaks of the many who experience multiple relinquishments - multiple separations and loss - and recognizes that transnational adoptions present, by far, the most difficult adjustments.

And yet all too often we judge the "success" of such placements by resilience of the adoptee, his survival mechanism, her ability to put on a happy face in order to please and be accepted and not experience yet another relinquishment.

We have all encountered adoptees who are experts at internalizing their happy face and convincing themselves that they are "fine." They need to know nothing of that painful time of relinquishment and prefer to keep it deeply buried where it is safe from causing any harm.

The pain of relinquishment is lifelong for mothers. Yet they - the mothers who loose their children - too, often believe if they never talk about, face, or deal with their loss it will somehow hurt less. Many are so deep in denial they are unable to accept any attempt at reunification. They know that seeing their child as an adult will just open that wound they have worked so hard to conceal. Once opened that scarred-over wound will be an unstoppable floodgate of pain, grief, sorrow, guilt and shame.

Yet, out of the mouths of babes, comes the uncensored truth: "I wish I'd been in your tummy." I wish I was born to and rauised by the same person. I wish I hadn't been taken away, separated, experienced such a grievous loss.  So says a 4-year-old grappling with understanding the unexplainable. 

Adoption - nay, relinquishment - is a pain no one would intentionally wish to happen. Yet the pro-adoptionsists want more, more, more. Read Kathryn Joyce's latest article on where the babies are being taken from and which mothers in which nations exploited. And be sure to check out her latest book about the evangelical adoption movement. 

Sunderland knows the root of the issue is the relinquishment. Add to that forced relinquishments, coerced and pressured relinquishments, relinquishments obtained under false prestences, not to mention adoptions that occur with no signed consent from one or both parents, or forged.

And, make no mistake about it: there is NOTHING altruistic or Godly about paying tens of thousands of dollars to "rescue" ONE child and leaving his family behind in the same horrid conditions, with now the addition of a painful loss to grieve!  Every adoption begins with a tragedy, a loss, a separation.  Most the result of poverty.

Each person who spends tens of thousands to procure just one child from overses could have used that same money to have a well dug, or a school built, books purchased, medical supplies to save the lives of the entire village...instead of snatching one child and leaving the rest behind. Imagine multiplying that by thousands and thousands of relinquishments and adoptions! We could feed the world and prevent so much loss. Or, at the very least better care foir our half million foster kids, more that 100,000 of whom cannot be reunified with family, and could be adopted were they not being ignored by those who God is allegedly pointing overseas to adopt.

Not only is adoption not serving the highest good, but in far too many cases it is supporting criminals, baby brokers, and child traffickers.  Taking children who have been kidnapped or stolen from loving, caring mothers! In these cases, adoption is most asuredly the wrong word. Abduction is a far better fit for what is taking place.

But the word adoption is such a soothing feel-good salve of a word. It so perfectly sugar coats all the pain on which it was created.  So we cloak the pain, the shame, the loss and the horror it leaves in its wake and give all parties to adoption a bright shiny smiley mask to wear. And we expect - demand - those who were relinquished and then adopted to not only look happy but to be grateful they were not aborted or left to languish in an orphanage. And to never bite the hand that rescued and fed them by talking about, or questing for, their severed roots. Just grateful obedience.... on a foundation of and buried pain and shame.

So when we speak out against adoption, we are speaking FOR PREVENTION of family devasation, we are speaking against loss, separation and shame, especially when unncessary....and there are better ways to resolve the poverty that causes the loss and separation rather than exploting it to meet a demand.

"A dangerous disease requires a desperate remedy." Gay Fawkes

In this case the "desperate renmedy" is perevention in the form of Family Preservation.


Lynn Grubb said...

Excellent post and very true. I just don't understand spending thousands of dollars on international adoption when there are kids here in our country who need parents, in addition to all the points made about how that money could actually be spent.

So true about relinquishment being the root of the pain -- adoption is really just a "happy word" to cover the ugly truth.

Robin said...

Great post, Mirah. But I do have to take issue with the use of the word 'unwanted'. I think this is one of the misconceptions that makes adoption seem like such a good thing. My natural mother never wanted to give me up for adoption and she never 'chose' adoption. Heck, I was probably more wanted than many people who were born to married parents and kept.

Mirah Riben said...

Yes, Robin, it is a misconception. That is eaxctly why it is in quotes.

My child, like yours and so many, many lost to th eoressures of adoption were very much loved and wanted.

Just as were the children the Australian gvt is apologizing for having forced their mothers to relinquish.

Unwanted is in quotes as is saved and rescued. All are MYTHS, lies of adoption.

Anonymous said...

Adoption is the right word. Remove "adoption" and you will remove 99% of the causes of infant separation. Because "adoption" for the adopters is as close as "ownership" as they can get, then removing this and replacing it with "long-term guardianship" sorts out those who have their own interests at heart from those who actually want to provide a home for a child but not own/re-name/pretend the child is theirs. These people will run for the hills (or the nearest surrogacy agency) if "adoption" is abolished, thus removing such demand from the market.

Anonymous said...

I am both a birth mother who lost a son to adoption in 1968 and an adoptive mother who adopted a son from Vietnam in 1974. I also have two more biological children. Every word you've written here is true. Adoption is an institution as archaic and cruel as slavery or any other kind of human trafficking. Family preservation should be the priority. Adoption should be rare and a last resort.

Mirah Riben said...


RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget