Are you part of the adoption triad? If you are reading this blog, you probably belong to it. It refers to the birth family, most often the unmarried mother; the adoptee; and the adoptive, most often infertile, parents.
I am a birth mother from 1964, when unwed girls were expected to give up their babies for adoption to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy. Statistics from that period of roughly 1945 to 1973 claim that up to six million of us did the same in what is now called “The Baby Scoop Era.”
I am also a psychotherapist. After the loss of my first-born to adoption, I became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Still confined by the shame of my secret past, it was not until my youngest son encouraged me to look for his missing brother that, in 2000, I began to learn about the lifelong process in which I had participated. This has been a challenging, complicated, and ultimately rewarding journey. It has also afforded me the opportunity to learn far more than the average therapist about the issues facing birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents. Frankly, I’ve been surprised and disappointed to learn how many of my fellow professionals are woefully uneducated and unaware of the lifelong issues experienced by members of the triad.
When I met my son’s adoptive parents, the first question his mother asked was “What nationality is he?” She had lived thirty-five years wondering about the source of our son’s wide cheekbones bequeathed by my Choctaw great-grandfather and never mentioned by me to the adoption agency.
How difficult to parent a child about whom one knows so little! How difficult for me to know nothing about where, how, or even who my son was for those three and a half decades! My son claims to have never been bothered by questioning where and who his original parents were, but millions of adoptees do not share his perspective. Even a cursory review of social media adoptee sites will uncover the pain many describe at feeling unwanted, abandoned or denied their biological heritage. This is despite however loving their adoptive parents may have been.
The reality is that sometimes children must be raised by non-biological parents. It is also true that adoption is not the idealized system it is often seen to be. Adoption has been used not only to provide for the best needs of the child, but also to satisfy the needs of adoptive parents.
As described by Evelyn Burns Robinson in her book, Adoption and Loss: The Hidden Grief, revised edition published 2003, all adoption begins with grief. There is the grief of the birth mother who loses her child, the grief of the adoptive parents who cannot conceive their own child, and the grief of the adoptee, who loses his or her original mother and family. All these losses present deep and lasting pain. We know now that the primal connection between a mother and child is one of nature’s most powerful forces. Babies are no longer seen as blank slates. Adoptive parents face special losses and challenges.
In my memoir with the working title of River of Connection, A Mother’s Journey of Loss and Discovery, I tell of my own loss, search and reconnection. I will be happy to send you the first chapter free. Please sign up in my Books section.
Through my personal experience, along with participation in organizations, support groups, conferences, retreats and reading, I have developed a special interest in helping other members of the adoption triad to heal. If you are seeking such help for yourself, you may visit me at www.lindafranklinlcsw.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.