Making space

An acquaintance of mine is near to finalizing her second adoption. I did not know her when the first happened, though I know the child now, but the second child is being adopted from foster care. This child’s story tells a truth about the need for adoption. It is a case where the natural parents have tried and failed to be able to parent for some time, and a child’s need for stability trumps infinite chances.

I know that this woman has always wanted a big family full of children, but that this isn’t biologically possible. Adoption is her family creation.

What I’m struggling with is how to, as an adoptee, make space for the joy of adoptive parents that also acknowledges and makes space for adoptee pain and trauma and the losses of first families. Are these mutually exclusive?

How can I agree that, yes, my adoption was a joyful experience for my adoptive parents, which is the narrative on which I was raised, while also making space to acknowledge the trauma it was to me to be taken from my original family? How can I further stretch to accommodate my first mother’s story, one of taking what seemed like the only viable path at the time?

I think part of the way that we create space for these things to exist is to increase the voice of adult adoptees in adoption discourse. If we change the dominant narrative from one of unmitigated joy of adoptive parents, if we complicate it, maybe there is more room to acknowledge their joy individually, not as a collective) while also creating space for adoptive parents to acknowledge the complications. This has to make parenting easier. Aren’t most difficult things easier when you can admit they are difficult? I find this true of adoption and reunion, so why wouldn’t it be true of parenting?

Adoption is COMPLICATED. Making more space for this complication maybe allows us all to consider seemingly contradictory emotions and feelings, which might improve our own relationships.

This might seem an odd subject for flipping the script, but if I’m to come to terms with what adoption means to me, it also means finding a level of comfort for what my mothers both tell me of their experiences. Our experiences don’t need to be the same to allow for understanding or at least openness to all of them. I am finding more and more that this is what I need to do to remain in relationship with these two key women in my life. Putting my own story first helps even out the balance of the decisions that were made for me decades ago.


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