As I mentioned in the Part 1 post, adoption is two stories colliding. The story of birthparents making a difficult decision to place their child for adoption and adoptive parents preparing themselves to receive that child. What arises from this is a different story altogether. In the middle of these two parties is a child. A child who will come to understand adoption in his or her own way. They will develop their own opinions of adoption, their own identity and understanding. Much of this understanding is influenced by those original parties, the birthparents and adoptive parents.
Since adoption is a process, not an identity, it must be communicated as such. There is a vernacular associated with adoption and it sometimes comes across with a stigma. People say things like, “She gave him up for adoption,“ or “The birthmother was young and irresponsible, so she gave the baby up for adoption.” There are many more examples but the idea is understood. Adoption can have a stigma. It shouldn’t have one, but often times it does.
When I was adopted in 1980, things were very different. Adoption was almost always viewed with this stigma. Birthmothers were seen as irresponsible, impulsive and unaccountable. The fact that someone could walk away from a baby was unthinkable. This was a generation of strong personal responsibility, ownership and work ethic. The concept of open adoption was in its infant stages and was almost unheard of. The deep feelings surrounding adoption (and the parties involved) were the same, but the societal and social perception was much different. Over the last 30 years, much research has been conducted and people are more educated about the adoption process. Communicating the truths (and difficulties) about adoption has taken a spotlight and is much more effective now than it was then.
I share all of this to lay the groundwork for what I’ll share in the next post – more of my personal experiences with the stigma of adoption. These experiences have fueled my desire to redefine adoption both in my family and for my son. I want him to understand that there is nothing different about him because of his adoption. It is not a third arm or a birthmark that can’t be removed. Adoption is simply part of his life story. It is unique, precious and very special. For every adoptee, these things are true. We must be educated and aware of this so that we can communicate those truths clearly.
To see other posts in the series, go to An Adoption Journey