I’m not sure what is going on this week, but I am seeing stories related to adoption daily on the Today show. Today’s story was a couple meeting their new infant daughter for the first time, on air. This is an extremely public arena for a seemingly very private event. Personally, I believe I would prefer this meeting in private, but that’s just me. The story that really got me thinking though was yesterday’s. Dr Nancy Snyderman adopted an infant 27 years ago, and the story was about the daughter meeting her biological mom for the first time. The interviewer asked the standard questions, like “How does it feel to meet your biological mom?”, and made the usual comments, like “Have you been curious all these years?” This last question kills me. As an adoptee, my answer to this question would unfortunately be sarcastic, as in DUH, but I understand that some of us are not curious about our origins. That does NOT describe me.
I was that annoying child that needed (not wanted, but needed) to know “Why?” about damn near everything. Of course, I also came from the generation that often received the famous, “Because I said so” answer. This was not then or now a good enough answer for me. So have I been curious? Unequivocally YES!!! I have always known I was adopted, and it was presented to me in the best light possible. I was a gift, a blessing, an answered prayer, etc.., but what I was not is connected. It didn’t matter that I had a great adopted family, I did not look, think, or act like them. Where are MY people that I look, act, and think like were thoughts that consumed me for most of my life.
When we see reunions between biological parents and their adopted children, the similarities are often overwhelming, and may answer many questions about idiosyncrasies that are not present in the adopted family. This helps to point to the idea that much of our personality results from biological traits, that can’t be attributed to environment. I spent many years imaginatively creating my back story that viewed my birth parents as famous rich movie stars that would have let me do whatever I wanted in my teen years.
I admittedly did request my non-identifying information from the agency that handled my adoption. Non-identifying is right. The only things I learned from that are that it is likely that my birth parents were not famous rich movie stars, and were in fact just regular people like the rest of us. My birth mom was not a teenager as I half expected. The most interesting things I did learn was that I must look much like my birth father, as my birth mom was described as short, blonde, petite, and Irish and German. None of these words describe me. My coloring is more along the lines of Mediterranean, and I am not short. I additionally learned that they were not from the city I was born in, and that she had come here to look for him. Possible explanation for me always feeling out of place, and like I didn’t belong here too? Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned was that I have a birth sister who is only 17 months older than me. Was this the missing piece I longed for my whole life? My brother and I are 8 years apart and I always wished for a sibling closer in age, only to learn that I have always had one, I just don’t know her yet.
I imagine it must be very difficult to parent some adopted children. I tended to use my adoption as a weapon when fighting with my mom in my teen years. I imagine there were many times when she wished she could send me back, especially when I angrily indicated how much I hated her. But in my defense, belonging is one of the most important features of adolescence, and I had been struggling with this concept for years before adolescence. If one doesn’t feel a sense of belonging in their own family, then it is likely that this will negatively affect future self-esteem and the ability to form healthy relationships.
I think adoption is wonderful, but I also think that many adoptees would like to know more about their origins. I think it is important to provide these children with as much biological information as is possible, so that they can get a sense of who they are, and for important hereditary information that may be necessary as the child ages. Additionally, this may make it easier if the child decides to attempt a search for relatives.
Adoptive parents, please do not take it personally if your adopted child wants to search for his or her biological parents. This is likely not done as a way to harm or replace you. I would be willing to bet it is more a curiosity on the child’s part to determine who they look or act like, and may actually contribute to a well adjusted child or teen. Counselors who work with adopted children will need to listen carefully to the child and his or her perspective. Just because the child has been placed in a loving family, does not mean that the child feels connected. Counselors would do well to determine what aspects are most troubling to the child, and establish honest, open communication within the family so that the child may feel free to ask difficult questions without the worry of upsetting the adoptive parents.
Adoptive children may always wonder about their origins, and will be affected by this differently at various developmental levels. At times it will be more important than other times, and will be in the forefront of thoughts, other times it will hardly be thought of at all. As for me, it was not thought of until the recent news stories trigger, and now I am here talking about it. So if any of you readers think any parts of this story sound familiar or you want to know more about my story so that you can link me with my birth family, please do not hesitate to message me. Yes, I am still looking, because curiosity hasn’t killed this cat yet.