© 2017 by Ann-Kathrin Görisch

Asian, Western, white, adopted, other

March 19, 2017

 

Yesterday, I thought about how to approach the topic of adoption on this blog. I guess it shines through many things I write but I haven't addressed it specifically up to now. Because, of course, it is the most scary part. I don't mind if you as a reader disagree with my political opinions and thoughts. But I guess what's immensely painful for anyone is if their difficult experiences and struggles are not taken seriously but judged, questioned, ridiculed. From what I have learned over the past years, it is a frequent struggle for everyone who belongs to some kind of minority, i.e. experiences the world from a perspective that the majority of people doesn't have access to. That leads to men questioning female oppression, white people denying racism, able-bodied people ignoring disabled people's struggles, cis-gendered persons excluding transgender issues, and so on. In the case of adoption, it leads to the common situation in which the adoptee speaks about their painful experience and then has to listen to other people's opinion on how they should feel or act. In extreme cases, our pain is questioned, our struggles devalued, and the person we're talking to delves into self-absorbed monologues. 

 

I spent half of last night reading about adoption, and at some point I just started copying and pasting bits and pieces that resonated with my own feelings and experiences. Perhaps this is a good point of departure. Because I don't have to write in my own words about myself but still can offer you some insight into the emotional maze that adopted individuals enter before they are even born. And I just ask you to read this, to accept and acknowledge what you read, without judgment, without questioning. I have doubted and questioned these emotions and experiences a million times myself, and always will keep on doing so, so don't worry - I am well aware of all the potential fallacies, wrong causalities, dead ends, etc. 

 

 

 

Separation from the mother is the ultimate loss. 


As early as the second trimester, the human fetus is capable of auditory processing and in fact, is capable of processing rejection in utero. Far beyond any cognitive awareness, this experience is stored deep within the cells of the body, routinely leading to states of anxiety and depression for the adopted child later in life.

 

Events that happen age 0-3 are encoded as implicit memories and become embodied because they place before language develops.

 

What this does is leave the baby with neurological connections which convey: “I’m not important; I don’t matter; I have no impact.”

 

It is not surprising that a child placed in the care of strangers who may not look like anyone else he or she has ever seen and may speak an entirely different language feels afraid. The more fear one has experienced, the more likely one is to react with fear to experiences in the future.

 

Children quickly learn how to hide their negative feelings if they are not validated and once the feelings are hidden or repressed, which is an unconscious process, they are unaware of the existence of such feelings.

 

Even a simple doctor's appointment wherein an adopted child is quizzed about their family medical history can become a trigger for painful or awkward feelings.

 

The adopted child is unlikely to really believe she is lovable.

 

Feeling abandoned and "abandonable," and "not good enough," coupled with specific hurt feelings over the birthmother's choice to "reject" the child" to "give me away" or "not wanting me enough."

 

By the time Klunder was a teenager — when difference is a stigma most kids work to avoid — “I wanted nothing to do with adoptees.”

 

There are many instances in growing up when she is again faced with the knowledge that she is different; when asked about family history by a doctor, when asked if she has a sister because the inquirer knows someone who looks just like her, when asked about ethnic background, in regular day to day conversations.

 

"Where do I fit?" Is a question that many adoptees ask again and again from a very early age. 

 

More than 75 percent of the 179 Korean respondents who grew up with two white parents said they thought of themselves as white or wanted to be white when they were children.

 

The grief for these children include feelings of sorrow, ache, sadness, anguish, despair, and yearning.

 

When parents and children are visibly different (as with interracial adoptions), people outside the family may ask questions or (in an unsolicited manner) "share" their viewpoints on adoption and the appropriateness of adopting a child from another race or culture.

 

As the adoptee begins to become aware of her adoptee status she will notice the differences she has from her peers and other family members.

 

The worst thing that an adolescent can experience is feeling different from their peers. At no other time in life do people want to fit in, be part of a group as they do in the adolescent years.

 

The question of the influence of nature (inherited traits) versus nurture (acquired traits) may become very real to the adopted adolescent, who is trying to determine the impact of all of these influences on his or her own identity.

 

[...] struggle with self-esteem and identity development issues

[...]wonder about what their birth family looks like, acts like, does for a living, etc.

[...] Guilt feelings

[...] betraying their adoptive family and/or that they will hurt their adoptive family by expressing their desire to learn about their birth family

[...] petrified of rejection

[...] resist acknowledging the effects of early trauma, because you haven’t known anything else.

 

Being adopted creates many feelings of being different. Often an adopted child may look differently than their adopted parents as they may be a different race or culture.

 

The adoptee will feel even more dissociated when conversations regarding other family members or peers births are brought up. 

 

Adoptees walk through the world looking for their lost “twin” or for someone they resemble.

 

With the adoptee not having a role model who resembles her physically or psychologically, it is more difficult to define where her life shall lead.

 

The adoptee is also aware of many ghosts that follow her through life. These ghosts include the person she would have been had she not been adopted, the ghost of the birth mother and birth father, and the ghost of the adoptive family’s child that would have been.

 

Maybe on the child's birthday the child may be very quiet and if asked what he/she is thinking about the child may say nothing at all, when in fact he was thinking about his birth parents [...]

 

This is accompanied by feelings of grief and loss. There is no set time or age when these feeling surface but, sooner or later, they do.

 

Many adoptees act out their grief through their behaviour.

 

[...] gigantic gap in their search to answer the age old question, "Who am I." 

 

Adopted children push you away because that is what happened to them. They are testing you to see if you love them; but it is a test that never ends. 

 

Separations, relationships and transitions may be difficult hurdles throughout the lifespan for those whose earliest experience was separation from their birthmother.

 

The adoptee will always carry this issue of abandonment with her wherever she goes. 

 

Adoptees are faced with a feeling of loss and grief that they are not allowed, by society, to actively mourn. Loss is a major component of adoption. This loss may not be able to be fully grieved until children reach adolescence and sometimes even adulthood.

Whenever the adopted person experiences another loss - whether it is a parental divorce, a breakup, the loss of a pet, moving, changing schools, etc. - he or she is likely to be reminded of these previous losses, and each subsequent loss is more powerful and may be experienced more powerfully than others might expect.

Even when we know that an adoption plan was created out of love and with the child's best interests in mind, it doesn't mean that the adoptee (child or adult) doesn't feel rejected or abandoned.

Unfortunately this emotional pain can interfere with parent-child relationships, romantic relationships, and even friendships

 

This result may reflect the fact that some adopted persons may view themselves as different, out-of-place, unwelcome, or rejected. 

 

Enduring feelings of guilt may lead to the experience of guilt even an inappropriate situations.

Some who have been adopted into greater means have felt guilt that their birth/first family has not had the same opportunity and may be living in poverty. In some situations adoptees may try to give away possessions or large sums of money. 

 

A number of studies have found that, while adopted persons are similar to non adopted persons in most ways, they often score lower on measures of self-esteem and self-confidence.

 

We like to believe that blood doesn’t equal family, but when you don’t have that type of connection to someone, you can’t help but to feel like something is missing in your life.

 

As an adoptee, you live your life constantly searching for a place to belong. That feeling of acceptance—be it from your teachers, your peers, or your significant others—is essential, as it makes you feel like you are okay and you are worthy of being liked or loved.

 

“How can I weigh the loss of my language and culture against the freedom that America has to offer, the opportunity to have the same rights as a man? How can a person exiled as a child, without a choice, possibly fathom how he would have ‘turned out’ had he stayed in Korea? How many educational opportunities must I mark on my tally sheet before I can say it was worth losing my mother?  How can an adoptee weigh her terrible loss against the burden of gratitude she feels she has for her adoptive country and parents?”

 

Instead, they live in a third space: Asian, Western, white, adopted, other. It’s a complicated place but not always a bad one. “I am, maybe, in a way, proud of my in-betweenness." 

 

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