Separation, Adoption, Finding and Binding
A woman carries a child for nine months in her womb, bears him and normally binds with that child again soon after birth. The child too, who has spent nine months intimately connected to his mother right under her heart in the womb, suffers the pain of separation at birth, but normally is very quickly reunited to the woman who bore him, and continues to bind with her the rest of his babyhood and childhood. That does not happen with the mother and child who are forced to be separated from each other forever through death or other circumstances, such as when the child is taken away from the mother, or when the mother has been convinced that it is for her own good and that of the child to give him away.
I can only guess what terrible sadness, pain and sense of loss the mother must feel, when she has to - or has been convinced that she has to - leave her child behind in the hospital and give him up forever. I suppose that she has to shut her feelings off for the rest of her life, unless she can once again see the child which circumstances forced her to part with.
As for the adopting parents, they are the only ones in the story of adoption whose role is voluntary: they adopt a child because they want to or feel the need to, often because they cannot conceive a child or their own.
As for the child, here I can speak from my own experience. I was cut off from the woman who carried me for nine months and bore me; we were not allowed to continue to bind with each other. I was committed by court order to a children's home. Many adopted persons can tell a similar story.
In the following year and half in the children’s home, I was temporarily placed in and taken out of two foster homes, before finally - before two years of age - being placed for good with a third family that adopted me: an alcoholic family, exactly as my birth family had been. For forty-four years I was never allowed to know anything about my birth mother and her family, nor about my birth father and his family. I never even knew their names or places of birth and residence. I never saw a photograph of my birth mother, nor of anyone else related to me by blood. I was never told what my own name at birth was. Except for a few untruths which were told to me in order to keep me quiet and prevent me from ever looking for my birth family, the whole question was shrouded in an unhealthy silence of guilt, shame and denial.
Only in 1998 did I finally find out the truth when I and my older birth brothers found each other almost by chance. But by then my birth mother was already dead since 1991. I can only hope to see her in the next life. Till then, the pain of separation from her persists, as does the sorrow that she missed the chance to know me. But at least the pain of not knowing my true origins and identity, of having no history and of not belonging to any people and any place, has gone for good. Knowledge and acceptance have taken its place. I am slowly taking in and digesting all the new facts that I have learnt and the facts that I keep finding out. I look with caution, wonder and appreciation at the photographs that I have received and continue to receive. I think often about the living family members whom I have come to know since 1998. I am slowly filling my empty self with these facts, photographs and living contacts, and making them my own. I feel that I have come into existence and am becoming my own person. The healing process began in 1998 and is still going on. It is not always easy, but is always very much worthwhile.
The need to find a new home for some child will most likely always exist. I hope that in the future, though, the need and right of that child to know his own name and where he comes from and even to maintain a bond with his family of origin will be respected and encouraged rather than suppressed. Neither the State nor the foster/adopting parents should any longer be allowed to erase the identity and past of the foster child in an unhealthy attempt to pretend that the child fell, as it were, straight out of the sky. The child’s needs and rights should always come first. Only then can the unfortunate situation of having to give away a child for adoption be made less tragic for the natural parents and for the child; only then can the situation become easier and healthier for the foster/adopting parents as well. At least that is how I see it as an adoptee.
Literature: Lifton, Betty Jean, Journey of the adopted self: a quest for wholeness (1994).