Posts Tagged closed adoption
I am truly unapologetic for writing another post inclusive of our new dog Blaze. The parallels between this guy’s anxious way of being in the world and that of many adoptees are so clear. There is the fear of trying new things (NO WAY is he pushing through that big chunk of plastic we call a doggie door; he has survived thus far without one thank you very much). There is the hyper vigilance (Where are my care-givers? Where are my care-givers? Where are my care-givers?), which is so often repeated in the literature as being characteristic of adoptees – along with the idea that while we do form ‘attachments’ to new adoptive care-providers, it is an ‘anxious attachment’ in that we do not see our true biology mirrored and reflected in subtle yet significant ways (and, we are freaked out about our last numero Uno vanishing into thin air!).
It’s an effort for Blaze to live large, free and unencumbered. Something always spooks him. He can’t feel reassured enough that his ‘primaries’ won’t bolt. Yesterday we left him for 6 hours – the longest stint alone in the house yet. And though his toilet needs had been cared for, he projected his pathology as a lovely Rorschach splotch on the living room floor.
Granted, I have never done that. But I feel his need to be safe and reassured.
According to Nancy Verrier‘s wonderfully enlightening books, one of the most common injurious dynamics set forth early in an adoptee/adoptive mom relationship is that of the grieving child exhibiting various unsavory behaviors and the new adoptive parent ‘reacting’ to this, taking it personally, being unconscious of the reality that their infant or toddler needs to process the harsh cutoff from biological mother that spooked him or her in a hard-plastic-doggie-door king of way, and then some .
It is up to the adoptive parents to stay present and give comfort when the adoptee is an infant. As the child gets older it is imperative that the separation trauma be openly explored and grieved, and that the adoptive parents do not get swept up into their own fears about ‘losing their children’ or their ego attachments to these beings as their personal possessions, as belonging to them now. My adoptive mother was still making comments such as “you got that trait from your father” after she knew that we knew we were adopted (which we did not know until we were in our forties). All of our lives she tried to snuff out reality by attributing both physical and personality attributes we possessed as being inherited from her, my adoptive dad, or another family member. These attempts to falsely stamp a child as your own flesh and blood resonate deeply with the adoptee as not just false but as unsound.
Yesterday I had my first full-blown session with “Kay”, a retired therapist who specializes in adoptee issues. Again, as with the first consult, I sobbed my way through. And while I characterized that first consultation harshly (see “I’d Rather Be Quilting”) I absolutely loved what my friend Kathy said about the tears – and I quote: “I love it when those trapped emotions emerge. Like a spring rain.”
So it was that the unexpected deluge recurred. As I began to weave the verbal tapestry of my past, a shocking label emerged from Kay. ”Carol, by repeatedly lying to you and your sister all those years, even when you asked them outright if you were adopted, and by compelling their family and friends to secrecy, your adoptive parents were emotionally abusive. When an adult in a caregiver role continuously invalidates a child’s internal intuitive knowing, that is emotional abuse.” It was stunning for me to hear this. I had never thought of my adoptive parents, Carol and Del, as anything but ‘good’ parents who were religiously and politically misguided. It required someone emotionally objective to connect the dots for me.
All the years of not nestling up to my adoptive mother made perfect sense in an instant. And in the mysterious way that life has of offering up opportunities for reparation, I have evolved from a distant and mixed heap of feelings about mom to loving the dickens out of her now that she has lost her mind. As I said to Kay through tears, “If there’s ever any question that this ‘dropping attachment to form’ bull* is just some new age spiritual guru‘s book-selling ticket to nirvana, think again.”
So in addition to identifying the people pleasing and the going underground with hurt feelings for fear I’ll be left – which taps back into that original trauma of bio-mom actually leaving for no apparent reason other than the fact that I must not be lovable - I have a new piece to work with.
As I have observed through past painful experiences, healing is not a linear affair. Like the punch line to a joke I love but can never remember, I am learning to deliver the truth with better timing.
Today I had two small victories. When my partner Margie asked me this morning after an exchange, “What’s wrong?” – I gave my standard response, “Oh, nothing.” Then I walked the dog, came back home and said, “When you asked me what was wrong earlier, I invalidated your intuition by saying it was nothing – and I don’t want to do that.” We talked.
Later I got another crack at it. Margie said something hurtful to me and again came the inquiry a half hour or so later, “Is there something wrong?” By now I was an old pro and I didn’t need a dog walk to get to the straight dope honestly and without a charge.
Later as we walked the dog together, Margie commented, “See, you told me how you feel and I’m still here.”
As we were leaving the scene of the reunion in our rental car, my partner Margie reported to me that my birth mother Maya turned to her before we pulled out and said, “I think that went pretty well!”
My adopted sister Amy and I were adults in our forties when we were told, “You were adopted!”. Growing up as kids and long before we were apprised of the truth, there were many events and encounters that felt odd and which we could never explain away. One looms quite vivid.
We had a cousin who was mentally challenged. I’ll call him “Donny”. One time at a family gathering Donny announced to my sister Amy, “It’s a good thing you moved away from L.A. before your real mom found you and took you back!” I gasped like a nebulizer shot compressed air into my lungs.
My adoptive mom’s sister Aunt Dodie lived next door to us. Amy asked Aunt Dodie, “What in the world did Donny mean when he said, ‘It’s a good thing you moved before your real mom found you?’” Dodie became stiff and looked straight ahead, repeating mechanically, “I don’t know a thing, I don’t know a thing, I don’t know a thing.”
(And what effect does this have on a child, not to mention a secret-keeper? Fall out from a closed adoption system, still in existence in many states.)
Amy’s adoption circumstances were very different from mine. My sister’s biological mother had several children when she became pregnant with Amy. A seaman came to port in her town. Nine months later, Amy’s birth mother was receiving free delivery care in a nunnery.
In November of 1960 when my adoptive parents went to pick up their second child, the nuns saw that my adoptive father Del was in a wheelchair. The nuns delivered the knock-out punch to my adoptive mom saying, “Oh no, no, we didn’t realize your husband couldn’t walk. We believe this baby will be better off with her biological mother.” My parents returned from the nunnery empty-armed and heartbroken. My adoptive mother told us later that she was in tears, inconsolable.
By February of 1961 something drastic had changed. I suppose we will never know just what. But at the age of 4 months, my sister Amy joined our melded, complicated clan.