Dear Adoption, Where to Start?
Where to start? Should I be angry? I am angry, but is that how I want to start?
Should I be grateful? It’d be safe and I am grateful, but is that the thread I want to follow?
It’s funny. Gratitude is an accepted response for adoptees, but anger is not. Are we grateful for the rain? Sure, but no one will look at you askance if you say you wish it wasn’t raining. Are we grateful for the sun? Of course, but complaining that it is too damn hot doesn’t get you into trouble. Can’t I be both grateful and angry?
Adoption, you introduced choice into my life. You brought choice that changed the course of my life. It involved multiple people; my parents, my biological parents, Catholic Social Services, the government, but it didn’t involve me. At least not in the choosing part.
I know that nobody gets to choose their parents. The difference is that in most cases parents don’t get to choose their children either.
That’s not the case with you. With you, Adoption, there is some selection. My parents talk of seeing me in my crib with my butt in the air (thanks Adoption for making my butt such a huge part of my life). What if I hadn’t had this butt? What if I’d been lying on my back like modern best practices tell us to do? Would that have changed things? Perhaps not. But what if my parents weren’t into butts? (I know that sounds gross, but stay with me Adoption.) The fact remains that my butt presented them with a choice. They could’ve just as easily walked away. I know they don’t see it that way, but I do.
Interestingly enough, my butt also played a role in my birth. I was a breach birth, not feet first, mind you, but . . . you guessed it, butt first. However, in that case my butt was not the palantir that enthralled Pippin. It lacked the mystical powers of attraction that later drew my parents to it irresistibly. Perhaps, like Gandalf, the doctor covered it quickly with her robe shielding my biological mother from its allure.
But again, a choice was made. My mother chose to give me up. In fact, when I later met her, I learned she had even more choice than that. In looking at the prospective adoptive parents, she chose my parents because, in part, my father had a degree in African linguistics and I was part black.
Choices, choices everywhere, but not a one for me.
But, you would argue, I couldn’t make a choice. I was an infant. A child. A babe in arms. You’re right, Adoption. Of course you are. But somehow that’s not enough. I know that your preschool teacher told you again and again, “You get what you get, and you don’t fuss a bit”, but . . . well fuck that.
Adoption, what frustrates me now is just that point. I want to fuss. I don’t like what you have given me. I’m not a two-year-old child who wants his crusts cut. I understand sucking it up. I’m a fricking Hoover. I’ve been hoovering since I was plugged in. I know raging won’t change the facts, but it’ll make me feel better if you hear what I have to say.
Here’s what I have to say. I don’t like you Adoption. I understand you’re not evil and that you do good in the world. But the same could be said about the New York Yankees or the New England Patriots. You all make a lot of people happy, but you’re not for me.
I’m not fighting against you. It’s not my life’s work to destroy you. But I’m not calling my senator to support you. I’m not attending any marches to make sure your funding doesn’t get cut.
If I’m fighting for anything, it’s for the right to say what I feel. It’s for the right to say, “Yeah, maybe things would’ve been crappy if I hadn’t been adopted, but that doesn’t mean I have to like the fact that I was.”
It’s to acknowledge that I live with you every single day of my life.
You are an invisible backpack. Your weight is so clear to me, but to others you are unnoticed. My secret burden that is difficult for others to comprehend.
You’ll laugh, but you are my trauma. You are my abuse. You are my shame. I know that you will argue, “But those are bad things from bad intentions. I am good. I am from good intentions. Just like a degree from Harvard, I can only be viewed in one way.”
Adoption, my oldest friend, your intentions matter, but so do the results.
This doesn’t mean you are a bad person. I know you are just repeating the lyrics of a rap song. You’d never use the n-word if it wasn’t essential to the rhyming scheme. I’m not saying you’re a racist.
But when you use that word, it hurts.
When you took me away from my biology, it hurt. I know that is hard for you to hear, but please let me say it.
So where does this leave us, Adoption? Can our relationship be saved? I don’t think we have a choice. Do you? We’re in this thing for the long haul. Conjoined twins with no surgeon in sight.
Let’s meet each other halfway. I’ll agree that your intentions are good. I’ll accept that you are an imperfect solution to a perfect problem. I’ll thank you for what you have given me.
Here’s what I’d like from you… Acknowledge that, regardless of intentions, my feelings of harm and hurt are real. Help me recover from this pain you’ve caused by validating my memories and honoring my present. Know that no matter how much you have given me, what you took from me is irreplaceable.
Know this: I’m hurt and it’s not my job to make you feel better about that.
I’ll survive. I’ll thrive. I’ll do my work. You do yours.