There is a moment whenever my child gets sick that I say that little prayer to the nebulous, “Please give me his pain. Let me go through the suffering so he won’t have to.” When I think about mothering, I often find myself in a state of worry. I worry for my kid in hopes he won’t have to. That sense of sacrifice feels instinctual, the ultimate show of parental love. It got me thinking about a conversation with my friend M. There are times we fill in the spaces of the emotional pie for our children, but it is not our right to inhabit it forever. Anger, pain, fear are all emotions we hope our children will never feel, but feel they must. It is our job as the adults in the relationship to be strong enough to absorb those feelings not inhabit them or take up the space where it belongs. So naturally, my head goes to adoption and how adoption complicates everything, even an innocuous thought about mothering. M is an adoptive mother and someone I enjoy talking to as she uses great big words with so much enthusiasm I find myself compelled to understand just to keep up my end of the conversation. Actually, what I love most about M is that she gets me, my rage and translates them into manageable words. She is even gracious enough to apply theory to my words and feelings making me feel far more educated. She listens and cheers me on encouraging my words to come out. So, I guess I would say she gets adoption, my sense of being adopted. She gives me permission to be mad. I hope I do that for her too.
Back to the conversation where we get to the occupation of the emotional pie. Cycling in my head is this thought – I don’t get it when some adoptive parents jump on the advocacy train toward the abolition of adoption or when I see them align themselves with adoptees in order to make amends for their decision to become adoptive parents. I feel they are taking up space, adoptee space, holding it so their kid won’t. In my imagination, I find myself elbowing them out of the way objecting to their indignation that adoptions should be done differently.
Fast forward. Relaying this conversation to a mommy friend and fellow adoptee evolves into the inevitable question, “what do you mean, she gets it? what does “it” mean when an adoptee lauds an adoptive parent for getting it?” It feels like there is a certain way to get adoption for adoptive parents. It is an emotional mine that I praise them for trying to navigate at the same time I am totally calling them out on it. If adoptive parents get into the anti-adoption movement or get into the self deprecation mode of apologizing for adoption and the industry they benefited from, does that mean they get it? Or are they just inhabiting that angry place so their child won’t be able to, making no room for the child to be enraged and turn on his adoptive parents like every other child must in order to be free to become his own person? When an adoptive parent “gets it”, what does that entail? How do we know? What does that look like?
Does getting adoption mean there needs to be an act of contrition? Are we waiting for an apology for doing THE DEED? I know I am oversimplifying the complicated, but it is precisely the complicated I wish more people would sit with when talking about adoption once you spend a moment to ponder all the moving parts. When I see adoptive parents taking the helm to stop corruption in adoption, there are times I feel like it is a step into the place of the adopted. I take issue with the idea that to adopt and fully embrace the complicated means regret and remorse that leads to placating those of us who are angry with our situation. I have to be frank, it does nothing for me. I am ok with adoption as a choice and I celebrate with those who decide adoption is how they will create their family. But something happens when an adoptive parent chooses to see the complicated. It seems that to embrace the sadness and the loss means they must abandon their personal joy in being an adoptive parent and that is not ok with me.
If I had a fantasy script for what I have been waiting to hear, it would sort of go like this:
After adopting, I gained a different understanding of the nuances of adoption and the many losses that are suffered by adoptees, birth parents and me. It was only after the aodption did I realize what I never wanted to admit, that adoption was never about you, but it was about me.
So, while I get the urge to take away the pain, joining me in it all the time can feel equally oppressive. The reality is that becoming a parent, no matter how, is a great thrill. To say yes to adoption, is a great leap of faith. I get that much and I am the adopted one.
PS. if you are seeing links in the post, it is not from me, it’s wordpress. my apologies if it offends, can’t figure out how to turn it off