Adoption Enlightenment – What I’m Learning So Far

I’ve been on the adoption journey for a little over 8 years now, and for me, this journey has been so much more than a journey of family, it’s been a journey of enlightenment. Something happened in the hours after Ava’s birth, that made me see adoption in a whole new light.

It’s not the adoptive child’s responsibility to heal their parents…. it’s the opposite actually. 

If you click the adoption tab on my blog, you can go back and read all my thoughts and experiences of adoption over the past 8 years, and you will notice how my narrative, my thoughts and my opinions of adoption have changed over the years. I am not alone in this journey of enlightenment, many of my friends, who have also adopted and those who have been on this journey with me, have similar enlightenment along their own journeys. But not all. There are many adoptive parents and many in the adoption fraternity who don’t want to be enlightened, who want to believe that after placement/relinquishment, the slate is wiped clean and they’re on the much sought after journey to perfect family.

There was a time and you can see it in my earlier writings about adoption, that I felt the same way, that I believed the same thing. When we started our adoption journey, I just wanted a child. I was heartbroken and beat down by years of infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. And I wanted a baby. I wanted a child to fulfill my needs, my desires and my hopes for a family. 

Then Ava was placed and in an instant that changed for me. At Ava’s placement, I had this realization that she was the only one who had no choice, no say in what was happening to her. Her birth mother had a choice, we as her adoptive parents had a choice, but she didn’t, she had no voice in what was happening to her. And as I looked at her sleeping peacefully in my arms, the love I felt for her was so overwhelming that I knew in an instant, that she wasn’t on this earth to heal me, that wasn’t her responsibility and that as her mother, I had taken on a huge responsibility to help her find healing and help her (and my extension Hannah who would be placed a few years later) find her voice, her truth and I couldn’t do that if I wasn’t open to everything that that would mean. 

The narrative: You child is SO lucky to have you as her parents.

I have heard this so many times over the years, as have pretty much all adoptive parents and it hurts me. It’s a terrible sentiment. There is nothing lucky about being relinquished, there is nothing lucky about being taken from your genetic family and having to grow up with questions about who you are and where you come from. There is nothing lucky about this wound that my children bare, that I am enlightened enough to acknowledge.

And so I have been on a quest of enlightenment. 

As the weeks, months and years past, and I start to grasp more and more what adoption truly meant, I went on a quest to get enlightenment. To find a way to best prepare myself for every possibility and probability my children may face so that I could be the best mother to them that I could be. 

I engaged with adult adoptees and no lies, that has not always been easy, initially I kicked back at what so many of them were saying, it was unbearably painful to hear, as a mother and I didn’t want to accept and embrace it, but the further I journeyed through all these truths, the more I began to understand them.

The angry adoptee…

This seems to be such a common sentiment surrounding adult adoptees, they’re angry and they’re rebellious as teenagers and they’re difficult and ungrateful. They despise their adopted parents for what was done to them.

And for a long time, I struggled with the same sentiment. But it was only through reading their stories and trying to immerse myself in their truths that I started to see a very different picture. I learned to understand that you can long for your biological parents and seek them out your entire life, without hating your adoptive parents. That you can love both equally, but differently and still struggle with identity and questions about your truth.

I started reading and researching and seeking out adoptees, selfishly asking them their opinions, thoughts and experiences on various topics surrounding adoption because I want to be the best I can be for my children, because I have come to a place of acknowledging that they will struggle at some point and I can either shut that down and extend their struggle, or I can embrace their struggle and be a part of their journey to healing. 

Two of the memoirs I read, had profound effects on me, Paula Gruben’s Umbilicus and Sarah-Jayne King’s Killing Karoline.

I have such respect for both of these women. For their bravery in sharing their stories and dealing with the repercussions. Paula, who I have never actually met, is my go to person whenever my children show me their wound. I message her and ask for her advice and she is always so beautifully unselfish in supporting me through my journey of enlightenment and by extension, my children’s journey with identity. 

Sarah-Jayne is a DJ on Cape Talk and recently she interviewed Paula about her book. Have a listen, it’s long, but oh so worth it:

My advice to anyone considering adoption would be this:

It’s ok to go into the journey for the wrong reasons, I think most of us do. I didn’t go into adoption because I wanted to offer a child in need a home, I went into adoption because I wanted a child so I could heal. But I think it’s important that once you’re on this journey, you go on a search to find the truth, your truth in all of this. In Paula’s interview with Sarah-Jayne, I found it interesting that Paula spoke of unconditional love. I think it’s important as adoptive parents that we ensure we offer this to our children. Unconditional love, when they’re seeking and hurting and difficult, to love them unconditionally through it all because their hurt is attached but also separate to us as adoptive parents.

Seek the truth, don’t just accept a truth. Actively seek it out. I know I have made myself quite unpopular in certain adoption circles for my search for the truth because I actively voice what I have learned and what I have learned does not necessarily line up with what was told to me initially in our adoption journey. 

Be open.

Adoption has come a long way from the days when birth mothers were shamed and hidden from society while pregnant, when they birthed their babies both literally and figuratively behind a veil of secrecy and shame. But being open with my children has come to mean so much more than talking frankly with my children, it has come to mean to me that I must go in seek of the truth, that I must create an environment where my children feel safe and secure enough to talk to me about their wound, their journey, their search for self. True self. Being open has come to mean to me so much more than answering my children’s questions, it has come to mean to me that I must be open to all the narratives in the adoption journey and seek out my truth in all of it. I must continue to learn and educate myself to better prepare myself for when this difficult times come.

Adoption SHOULD be about finding families for children, not about finding children for families.

5 Comments

  • Jadie

    February 17, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and being so open and honest. You have opened my eyes to so much and helped me think about things from a different perspective!

    Reply
  • hopefulltreasures

    February 18, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    I so appreciate your honesty in this post! I am learning so much from you sharing about your journey to enlightenment. It is helping me be a better adoptive mom to my Noah. Thank you so much for being so willing to share these moments. Megan xxx

    Reply
  • An Ordinary Gal

    February 19, 2018 at 8:23 am

    When I started reading this post I thought….Oh Sharon, what do you mean? Of course these kids are LUCKY to be placed! Then it kind of sank in. Heck I wasn’t adopted but we all know the baggage we carry when it comes to a difficult childhood. SO I can’t still imagine when an adopted child becomes an adult….and has all these feelings. And then being the adoptive parent who’s standing there thinking…is my love not enough? And as much as it hurts to answer that question, your love is great, but it can’t shelter the kids away from the issues they face around being adopted.

    This was definitely very enlightening.

    Reply

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