Adoption did not ruin my life or crush my soul or whatever.

I am not going to deny the experiences of those for whom adoption has made their lives miserable. They say it and I believe them. But it did not make mine miserable, and I think there are a lot of worse things that could have happened to me. This does not mean I’m “grateful” or think myself “lucky” to have been adopted, or some other bullshit like that. On the whole, being adopted is worse than being raised by one’s biological parents, all other things being equal. Of course, all other things were not equal, and given the circumstances into which I was born I cannot say for sure which would have worked out better for me.

I wish that I had not been adopted, and by that I do not mean that I can see an alternate universe in which I had not been adopted and things had worked out much better for me. I wish that I had not been adopted, because I wish for all the things that people have because they were raised by their biological parents. Things they are so used to having that they aren’t even aware of their existence or what it might be like to be without them. That’s what I mean.

I don’t think the lack of those things has made my life hell, but it has made it more difficult than it would have been otherwise. As a person, I am incomplete in ways that are very difficult to describe. It took a long time for me to realize that, too. It’s hard to admit that there might be something wrong with you, especially if it can’t really be fixed. It goes against our whole culture.

But that is not hell. Hell is being sexually abused, or watching your family die in some war, or something like that. I’m not saying that some adoptees don’t go through hell just because of their adoption, but I am saying that I do not think that I have.

Sometimes it seems like people take the position that if adoption isn’t the best thing ever then it must be the worst thing ever, or vice versa. It’s not just that I find this frustrating and unproductive, it’s a kind of thinking that is completely alien to me. To me, it sounds like this: A: “Three is less than four.” B: “Oh yeah? Well it’s more than two, so it must be as much as four! More than four, even!” Or maybe like this: A: “Three is less than four.” B: “Oh yeah? Well two is less than four, so clearly you believe three is equal to two, and you’re just whining about having two when if you would just open your eyes you would see that you have three.” I’m not saying that it actually is like that, it just sounds like that to me. Maybe someone can explain it to me a little better.

I feel like every time I criticize adoption or make fun of certain aspects of the culture that surrounds it, people want to pigeonhole me as the “bitter adoptee” who hates his own life and wishes he’d been aborted. Apparently there really are some adoptees who are at least somewhat like that, and I honestly don’t understand them any more than I understand the “happy adoptee” who claims to have absolutely no negative feelings about being adopted. It’s really not my place to deny either of their experiences but I can’t connect to them, either.

I wish we could talk honestly about adoption without getting caught up in agendas or having to stay within particular camps. I wish the people who really hate adoption could hate it without comparing it to genocide or the Death Star or whatever. I wish the people who are really happy about being adopted would stop implying there’s something wrong with everyone who feels differently, or at least show some signs of having done a little introspection rather than just knee-jerking.

I wonder, if we all had a conversation with no adoptive parents or natural parents in earshot, and absolute certainty that none of what we said would ever get back to anyone outside our little covenant, what would we really say to each other about adoption?


21 Responses to “Adoption did not ruin my life or crush my soul or whatever.”

  1. 1 Sue July 24, 2007 at 4:20 am

    I LOVE the numbers example you gave.

    I wish I weren’t the first to reply, since I am supposedly a listening AP. I can only offer the cynical wisdom that I think have accumulated from being in conversations in many rooms from which the people for whom we censor ourselves are banished: from group therapy to gender/sexual identity affiliations to political action meetings. It just doesn’t help us be more honest because we internalize so much of the tyranny and we end up recreating it among ourselves. It takes an incredible amount of self-criticism to get out of that loop, which is why revolutions seldom succeed. At least not very quickly.

    I am finding that given the freedom to express herself, my daughter can say she loves and hates being adopted in the same hour, with equal vehemence and I never know which is coming next. Keeps me on my toes!

  2. 2 joyjoy July 24, 2007 at 4:25 am

    I feel like a lot of us feel differently about it, I have never found anyone who feels exactly the same way about it, as I always like to say the adoptee experience is like a venn diagram, there are intercises.

    There are too many variables to claim one universal experience, except of course that it is the Death Star, right?

  3. 3 Reunited Dan July 24, 2007 at 7:49 am

    I guess I fall into the catagory of seeing the issue from both sides. Am I happy I was adopted? Yes and no. My adoptive family was able to provide me a stable life with a strong emphasis on education however I feel like I missed out on having a close family unit.

    Do I wish I wasn’t adopted? No. If I had been raised by one or both of my biological parents, my life would have been very different. They were from a small mill town in New England where people worked hard and played harder. Lots of boozing and infidelity. And education? Not a priority at all.

    Count me as on the fence…

  4. 4 Susan July 24, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    I just found your blog through Sume. Great, great post. I feel the same way, and I also wonder about the question at the end.

  5. 5 Julie July 24, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    What I suspect contributes to our bad reputation is this: Let’s say I am a 2, and my particular group are 1.5s thru 3.5s. We are adults and have assessed our adoption experiences (and continue to assess them as we remember more). We look at adoption today and see adopters making the same mistakes and we GROAN because they should know better by now (decades later). We see some of them making many many MORE mistakes than were made with us, and we not only GROAN but we CRY OUT. To outsiders, that makes us sound like we must all be 1s (or maybe worse).

    I suppose that speaking within earshot (or writing within eyeshot) of outsiders makes some of us more vocal than we need to be with each other. Most of this stuff, we just know. We just know. And, safely among ourselves, there is no need to preach to the choir. Instead, we would probably talk a lot more about our everyday lives and joke heartily about today’s adoption. If outsiders could only SEE us talking and not be able to hear us, they might guess we were a bunch of stand up comedians having a convention.

  6. 6 iBastard July 24, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    “If outsiders could only SEE us talking and not be able to hear us, they might guess we were a bunch of stand up comedians having a convention.”

    Haha! This is the truth, right here! 🙂 All the things we like to joke about are the things that really make some people very angry (as we saw just a few days ago on this blog) so maybe there’s a little projection going on here.

  7. 7 Emily July 24, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    As someone who is on the way to becoming a foster carer and considering long-term fostering or adoption (of an older child or children (siblings)), I am curious to know how adoptees feel about this. I’ve noticed a lot of comments relate to individuals adopted in infancy. I wonder if these views would be the same if, for example, you were removed from your biological parents because of neglect and were adopted as a child (perhaps of primary school age). I am currently doing a lot of thinking, reading and research into fostering and adoption and any thoughts/comments/opinions would be gratefully received.

  8. 8 iBastard July 24, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Personally I wouldn’t presume to speak for them. I suggest using your favorite search engine to find fostered adults or former fostered children and ask them directly. I think there will be some similarities but some strong differences, too. I imagine they typically wouldn’t undergo the total erasure of identity that infant adoptees are subjected to, and I think that’s what sits at the center of the typical infant adoptee experience. That doesn’t mean their experiences are necessarily better or worse, and I suspect we have a great deal in common, but I honestly don’t know much about it. Certainly not as much as I should know about it, but I’m working on that.

  9. 9 Sharon Ferguson July 25, 2007 at 4:03 am

    I SO love this post – thank you for writing it – have only recently discovered adoption blogs. I was a closed adoption baby – have known all my life, but like you, was relatively a “happy” adoptee for much of my life until the last several years. I dont want to take up a whole bunch of space here in your blog telling my story, but my attempt to reunite with my natural mother did not…well, did not ‘end’ well. I am still processing the vehemence she sent my way and like to tell myself I am more angry at the sucker punch she dealt me than with the actual rejection. But in recent years, have been dealing with the sorrow and anger I have over the general rejection, like how its denied me the ability to tell my daughter a Story of My Self. She’s heard all about the family history of her father’s side of the family, and it goes back pretty far in Texas history, but I am now having to give her an “Adopted Grandparents” history and its not sitting well with me…largely because I got mostly bitterness and hatred and anger from my natural mother. Because of this I have been dealing with bouts of depression and feeling like I cant talk about it to anyone. The fact that I have been feeling silenced on all fronts has been dominant in my thinking …and reading your blog and others has been so liberating! Thank you!

    Having said that, I have come across a couple of blogs that do not describe my experience or feelings either. While I am totally aware that not every adoptee had the secure childhood with supportive Aparents that I did (and they *were* very supportive to the extent that they were well aware that I would be curious one day and they felt it was important that I be encouraged), and that there are many many cases where the Aparents made life hell for the adoptee, I am not willing to agree totally with them that adoption itself is a Complete and Total Bad Thing To Happen At All. I guess one of the things we adoptees are finding out is that we are all individuals after all and that we are definitely more circumspect than those with a particular agenda. I dont want to have an agenda of “either/or” or “all or nothing.” That was one thing my natural mother accused me of being, without ever having gotten to know me, and it could not be further than the truth.

    ACK – here I am rambling when I said I wouldn’t. These are just my random thoughts late at night. What Im trying to say is : dittos.

  10. 10 iBastard July 25, 2007 at 5:04 am

    I am really surprised by the response this post has generated. It was written as a reaction to something an adoptee said elsewhere, which I won’t repeat here because it’s out of context and entirely unfair of me, but basically that adoption was something incredibly horrible, much more horrible than I could imagine it being for me. I do not want to invalidate the experiences of others, but I do think I have the right to say that I don’t share them, so I wrote this out of frustration because I felt so trapped between two opposing sides.

    Anyhow, I really, really appreciate all the comments to this post, especially the middle of the road, on the fence comments, because one of the things I have been blogging about a lot lately is the importance of adoptees talking honestly to each other. I’m going to try to write another post in response to all this sometime in the next few days, after I take some time to gather my thoughts. I hope I won’t be the third to do so (I’m already not the first or second, check out sume’s post and Aaminah’s post!) because I feel like we have had some really terrific discussion here.

    Also, Sharon Ferguson, you need to tell this story, it’s good for you and honestly I think we need to look more critically at our natural family relationships. Get yourself a blog and go for it! WordPress is free and easy to use, and so is Blogger (I finally decided I like WordPress better but they’re both pretty good).

  11. 11 Elizabeth July 25, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    iB are you speaking of the comment I made on the AAAFC? I’m not sure if you have seen my follow up post there, if not please take a look. I was not trying to be dramatic, my comment was based purely on my experiences.

    Unfortunately, being abandoned/adopted was by far the worst thing that ever happened to me. I wish it weren’t so. I deal with my adoption crap online because it’s cheaper than therapy. (Though I’ve tried that as well).

    I have bad days just like anyone else. I have days where I’m angry, or hurt, or depressed. But adoption doesn’t run my life. And adoption didn’t ruin my life, although I had to fight like hell not to let it. I really could have let it ruin my life but somewhere inside I knew I was worth fighting for.

    Outside of my online adoption crap, I enjoy life. I sing (badly), I dance, I laugh, I work, I study, I plan trips to Paris.

    Would it surprise you to know that I have a very good friend IRL who says that adoption is the best thing that ever happened to her? We visit, and chat, and joke, and help each other, and we sometimes talk about adoption. I accept her for having a near “perfect” adoption experience, and she accepts me for having a horrible adoption experience. And no she is not in a ‘fog’ she reunited years ago and has dealt with her issues. (I’m still working on mine).

    My point (I do have one) is that most people would put us into two opposing camps. Most people would be shocked that we are friends. We are friends because we validate each others experiences.

    I said long ago on my blog that I don’t care if people hate adoption or not, I only speak about my experiences. That is it.

    I hope you don’t mind my long ramble here. Peace out.

  12. 12 2B True July 25, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    iBastard – I took you up on your suggetion!

    here is my blog:

  13. 13 iBastard July 26, 2007 at 1:15 am

    Elizabeth, thank you for your comments. My post was inspired by your comment on AAAFC but it was not in any way a response to it. Your comment got me thinking about how I thought about adoption, and how it was hard for me to connect to the more extreme views in either direction. As I said in the actual post, I do not in any way deny the authenticity of your experiences.

    An issue I’m really struggling with is the way people want to take the two extremes of adoptee experience and pigeonhole everyone into one or the other. I don’t think this is your fault, or even the fault of the “happy” adoptees (though some of them are individually guilty of this practice, such as the infamous Petunia), but a problem in how adoptee discourse is received by non-adoptees. I think you should express your very negative adoption experience–in fact, we need you to express it, because it really is part of the overall adoptee experience and no genuine adoptee voice (as I know yours is) should be marginalized.

    I hope you didn’t take my post as an attack on you, or even a response to you (which would be a pretty lousy thing for me to in my blog). Rather, these are thoughts that your comment triggered, which have more to do with the influence I feel external factors have on our discourse than with anything we are saying. Does that make sense?

    In any case, I really appreciate your thoughts and I certainly don’t mind you posting them here. I’m really glad you did. Peace!

  14. 14 Elizabeth July 29, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    iB I tried to leave a comment before but my computer died.

    I did not think you were attacking me. I felt the need to explain myself further because I didn’t want to sound dramatic.

    Reading your latest post I’m sorry that you are leaving the forum.


  15. 15 justice July 29, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    I am really glad you have been on the aafc forum. And if you’re not going to be there at least I can find you here, as I really appreciate your humor, insight and individuality. With all the brouhaha about soul crushing experiences I want to add that I think soul crushing is a BS term glamourizing ego crushing. This may just be semantics, but souls are significant and uncrushable in my experience.

    And besides you are totally COOL man!

  16. 16 joy21 July 29, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    I am very sad that you took my post that way, it was not what I meant at all.

  17. 17 mt July 31, 2007 at 8:36 am

    I know what you mean. However, I am extrememly happy that I was adopted. My adoptive dad owns his business and we have had a great life! Good school, stable life. Bio dad is a mess and I wouldn’t have liked being raised like that, but I guess I wouldn’t have known any better right? Sorry I am just confused right now.

  18. 18 amiweird August 6, 2007 at 4:03 am

    Thanks so much for that post.
    You said everything so eloquently. Something I haven’t been able to do so therefore have not attempted a similar post in my own blog before.
    I am grateful for my life. Grateful for my adoptive parents (and family). Grateful for where I live. Grateful for my experiences as a young Australian woman (as opposed to a life I may have led in South Korea had things been different).
    However, adoption no matter how happy your life is, can still muddy those idyllic waters a bit, can’t it!
    I am a happy person, who has some “issues” to deal with surrounding adoption. I used to be an angry adoptee but I didn’t know it (it was hidden in my subconscious and came out in other areas of my life). I now feel like I am a happy person who is learning more about myself every day in every aspect (including very much so as an adoptee).
    My life hasn’t been wrecked by adoption, but it hasn’t been made “easier” either.
    I think that there is no black and white where adoption is concerned. So many grey areas to navigate through.
    I know my experiences are mine only, even if they bear a slight resemblance to those of others.
    I don’t want to feel like i have to either be anti-adoption, ungrateful, angry OR blissfully happy and 100% happy with being adopted. I get mad when people think “happy” adoptees must be ignorant and in denial, or when adoptees who have identity issues must be bitter and twisted…there are so many variations on the life experiences of adoptees.
    I am me. A happy adoptee with some angry moments. I don’t want to judge others and I don’t want to be judged. I just want our collective (yet individual) voices to be heard.

  1. 1 Adoption and Identity « Writeous Sister Speaks Trackback on July 24, 2007 at 4:26 pm
  2. 2 Well, that didnt take much… « To Be True of Voice Trackback on July 25, 2007 at 9:04 pm
  3. 3 I guess I’m not adopted enough. « iBastard Trackback on July 29, 2007 at 6:12 am

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