According to a 1999 Adoptive Families article by Deborah N, Silverstein and Sharon Roszia, loss, grief, mastery/control, identity, guilt and shame, rejection, and intimacy are emotions all members of the adoption triad struggle with. All of those are nothing I ever thought about on my road to parenthood and probably things most don’t associate with adoption. To be honest, when I first read that list I thought it was a little absurd. Then I stopped and thought about them and realized that I did deal with all of those in one way or another.
I dealt with the loss of never experiencing pregnancy, which led to grief of never being able to conceive.
I dealt with the issue of not being in control. I couldn’t control how my daughter’s birth mother took care of her body, her life choices, the birth, or anything really.
I suppose I struggled with identity too. I wanted to feel like I was MOM and no one else. I struggled to fulfill my role as parent in the eyes of others. That’s not to say I didn’t try to be the best mom possible and love my child unconditionally. I just wanted everyone to view me as my child’s mom without questions and paperwork. I have realized that I am mom in the eyes of my children, but they will always have 2 mothers, and that is okay.
Guilt is not something I would have thought adoptive parents would experience. Oh, but I did! I felt more guilt with our second adoption because our son’s birth parents were so open with their grief over placing their son with us. They were clear that this was what they wanted for their son, but their grief was profound. That caused me so much sadness and guilt. I was so happy to be a mommy again to this beautiful baby boy, but my happiness was causing others so much pain. I had such a hard time with that. I knew that they wanted to go through with the adoption, but I just wished it hadn’t caused them so much pain. I wanted to take all their pain from them.
I kind of dealt with rejection, but only with our second adoption. My grandfather did not want to accept that we were adopting a black child. He wouldn’t even hold him for over 3 months. Unfortunately, I felt like that was more of a rejection of my son than a rejection of me.
So that leaves one more—intimacy. From what I read, this is more an issue for adoptees and birth mothers. However, I know that a lot of couples struggling with infertility would back me up when I say that trying to conceive can put a damper on intimacy. At times it can seem like the only focus is on conceiving and not each other. It can become daunting. Thankfully, that doesn’t last forever, but it can and does happen.
What is really interesting to me is that when I started writing, I was prepared to show how untrue the list above is because I really didn’t want anything negative to go hand in hand with adoption. I didn’t want my children to deal with anything on that list, but I see that they might. They definitely will feel the loss of their birth parents and they might feel rejected by them. They will probably grieve their birth families and not getting to grow up with their siblings. They might struggle with knowing who they are. I hope with our open adoptions this won’t be so, but you never know. Our daughter already struggles with control from time to time. The truth is, I don’t know what my children will experience and I really had hoped that the list was wrong, but it’s not. I’ve talked to many adult adoptees and even those with wonderful adoptions have told me that they experienced some of the things on the list. I haven’t talked to many birth parents but I know that my kids’ birth parents struggled and probably still struggle with guilt, shame, loss, and grief.
Those on the outside of adoption and those of us parenting adopted children really don’t want to believe this kind of list. We want to think of all the positive parts of adoption, but as I just learned myself, to truly understand adoption, you need to look at all its parts—good and bad.