Assembling Self

Monday, November 1, 2010

Myths and Misconceptions in Adoption

It is very apparent to me that adoption is a very misunderstood subject for most who can only base their opinions from misinformation or small portions of truth and reality. Myths can be deceiving and misleading. Misconceptions can be harmful and devastating. Remarks stemming from these myths and misconceptions can run the gamut from being hurtful, emotionally crippling, and even to damaging to important relationships.

I've had comments about adoption and being adopted that have stuck in my craw (that saying sounds so old fashioned but then again I am old) for days. I have been stung by a few statements by well meaning people who had no true idea of how adoption affects us. I have had more people than I can count over the years attack me and call me ungrateful, whiny, and selfish. I am here to address these remarks and present them in hope those that are not adopted can gain some understanding of what being adopted means to us, and for us.

If I never hear the comment “You were chosen” again it won't be too soon. To this one my response remains, “But first I was unchosen”. And, the ever so popular “Aren't you glad you weren't an abortion”. To which I get a lot of shock value of saying that no, many days I would rather have been aborted than given away to be abused and rejected. Tends to make me not very popular with the Pro-Life crowd but hey, I long ago lost my need for mass approval.  Don't even get me started with “so just don't think about it”.

Many people think my problems with adoption are because of my personal adoption situation which was not good, huge understatement there. People think there are a small percentage of adoptees with adoption "issues". Example, I was speaking about adoption to a very dear friend who stated, "I know many adoptees who are perfectly happy with their adoption situation." I asked him if these adoptees had any current genetic family medical history for themselves, or their children and their grandchildren? Or, did they know they may or may not have siblings and other first family members out there they are crossing paths with or, God forbid, could marry into their biological family since many relinquishment's and adoptions are done locally? Did they know if their biological family was out there searching for them, or mourning their loss? That adoption laws could prohibit them from ever obtaining any identifying information about their first family if they ever wanted or needed it. I told him he was only seeing one facet out of the whole HUGE scope of adoption. He finally replied that any discussion he had about adoption made him feel ignorant. I told him that I applauded him for his honesty.

I have been told that I am lucky I will never have to know what it is like to lose a real parent because I never knew them.  If I tell someone I lost my mother when I was born their natural reply is one of sympathy for my loss.  If I tell someone I was adopted the usual response is regarding how lucky I am.  They are both the same thing.  Adoptees may have wonderful adoptive parents but that was proceeded first by a profound loss.  Doesn't a child who loses a parent young, before they have memory of them, not mourn and grieve throughout life?  Many adoptees who are finally able to locate their biological family members find they have passed. Many find their families had been searching for them as well.  They are left only with photos, a gravesite, and stories, and left with intense agony and sorrow. Lost and forever gone are the irreplaceable people who will always be a part of who they are.

It was alluded to last week by a very close friend that I am used to not having family. I never get used to it, or the loss of it. I never will.

Our pain and loss are unacknowledged and denied as real by others, who impose their preferred reality and expectations of what adoption should be onto us.  Mostly, due to the myths and misconceptions that surround adoption.  It's nearly impossible existing in a world that revolves around family connections, family events, and family holidays, to not have the absence of what we have lost magnified. Our lives are severed by adoption and missing critical pieces.  So much of this is preventable and avoidable with a change to present day adoption law and policy.  This why I can't give up adoption education and reform and attempting to make the world more aware of the vast and broad brush strokes adoption paints our lives with each and every day.


  1. "If I tell someone I lost my mother when I was born their natural reply is one of sympathy for my loss. If I tell someone I was adopted the usual response is regarding how lucky I am. They are both the same thing."

    -simply brilliant, Karen!

  2. Thank you. It was something I read and heard at an adoption conference workshop. It has always stuck with me and made sense. Hopefully it will for others too.

  3. Makes great sense to me too.I was lucky and found mine but the downside is you then suffer the loss all over again so you get to bear the deaths of four parents instead of the usual two.Another bonus of adoption!

  4. It just sucks doesn't it Von??? Shouldn't have to be like this...and hopefully if we continue the fight it won't.

  5. Someone once commented that at least knowing your (bio) mother being physically alive was better than an adoptee whose (bio) mother is physically dead.

    I commented back: as a TRA, I beg to differ.