Tuesday, 31 July 2007

A is for Adoption

There's been soooo much on the television in the UK about adoption these last few months, it's driving me nuts. It's as though all of a sudden all of the taboos have been lifted about being born a bastard unwanted child (I speak for myself here) and now every man, woman, and their dog want to chat about it - or rather make a tv documentary about it.

Of course as first, like last year when Kate Adie did her Nobody's Child series, I was interested (but had of course already read the book the minute it was released for sale). But then I had already read lots and lots of books on adoption because I wanted to know how other people felt about it.

Were other people as disturbed about the whole thing as I was? Whenever I spoke to people who said they were also adopted I would ask them about tracing, and they would inevitably say, "Oh no! I don't need to do that! I love my parents!" And then they would look at me, affronted, and I would feel like a naughty child, BAD child, for even having the thought in passing. The thought of, Who am I?

I love my parents. I have had a wonderful upbringing and would not change a single thing because all roads have led to here and here is a good place to be. (I have to say all this because a lot of folks think that if you need to trace your birth family it is because of a lack in your adopted family, and for me this is not/was not the case).

I did trace my birth family. I used to visit the pages of the Canadian High Commission on a regular basis once I had the Internet, and in person when I lived in London, and one day there was an announcement that said the law had changed, that adoptees could now have their original birth certificates. Oh My. Send off $50 and wait. Oh My.

So I did. I fully believed that the name would be enough. I fully believed that no name would come, that I did not really come from anywhere, that I had no background. But an envelope did arrive, and there was a name on it. My name. Oh my!

And of course the name was not enough! It took only three days on the Internet to find a family a tree with her name on in. Three days. And from that we found a phone number and eventually we got my granny. Oh my giddy aunt!

The hardest part of all of this was explaining to my parents that I hadn't done this to hurt them, but that I had a deep seated need to know where I came from, and who I was. It opened up a dialogue that they had always allowed but that I had never felt comfortable with. I still don't feel comfortable with it, even now, when my birth grandmother and aunts have been over and met them. When I have been 'home' to Canada and met the blood relatives I grew up thinking I never had.

Adoption is a roller coaster of emotions. I was listening to a Radio 4 programme the other day in which two adoptees discussed the tracing of their birth families, and one of them said that he spent his life protecting everyone - protecting his family's feelings, and his birth family's feelings, and yet he, as adoptee, was ever in the middle and no one protected his feelings. At least that is the gist of what he said. And it is true. That is how it felt for me.

Tracing wasn't the easy option but it was easier than not tracing. I now have people on the planet who look like me - wow! - and whilst I don't belong 100% to either my adopted family or my birth family, I do belong to both of them. Inside yet outside. On the fence. Betwixt. Like I'm neither Canadian nor British, but yet I am both.

So there we go. An atheist and adopted?! Definitely on my way to hell in a handcart eh!

Questions welcome!


JJ said...

That's so interesting. It's not something I feel I can ever ask anyone about because I don't know where they are on their journey. I don't know how cool/uncool people feel so I'd hate to cause offence. But it's really interesting to listen to what your feelings are on the matter.
Well done. It seems like a diplomatic nightmare.

Jon M said...

Interesting H and to find that you have such a noble 'blood'family name...It sounds like it's been a positive experience for you...Now there's a few abandoned little gods here need adopting, this one's cute and has little wings...ahhh!

hesitant scribe said...

JJ - it is a diplomatic nightmare and yes, it's a journey too. Ask me anything you like, although I might answer you via email if I thought my answers might upset family members, but nothing you ask is going to offend me. Adoption is better than not being adopted, but the identity issues that are created either way are enormous. I think it is one of the reasons I write - to try to make sense of it all, (as Louise Erdrich says of her own writing).

Jon - indeed, a very noble name. We go back to Johan de Witt (1820s) on my maternal grandmother's side, and to Blackfoot Sioux on my maternal grandfather's side. I love that I have such a mixed background.

But er.. what abandoned gods are you on about?! Wings? I am well and truly lost !!!

liz fenwick said...

Thanks for sharing that with me. One of my closest teanage friends was adopted andshe never spoke of it other than to state the fact....

Jon M said...

I was alluding to your proclaimed atheism and the fact that all these superbnatural beings have been abandoned and will need homes...I would say there's a story in there somewhere but Neil Gaiman's already writiien it I think.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Oh, yes, definitely. I'll see you there! Fascinating couple of posts, Lisa. I don't feel like asking you questions as a result, but will be very happy to read whatever else you care to write on these subjects.

Theresa said...

Hi, I found your blog via a google alert. It took me a long time before I started really talking about my adoption feelings. I would get the same responses you did, so after a while I stopped talking.

This was an interesting line: "Tracing wasn't the easy option but it was easier than not tracing." For me it was searching was hard, but not searching was harder because it was damaging. I was being dishonest to myself in not searching by trying to make everyone happy. Of course I'm insanely jealous of your original birth certificate laws. Oh maybe one day the US will be as civilized.

This was a great post; thanks for writing it.

hesitant scribe said...

Jon - aha! all is clear now - ta!

Zinnia - glad to be of interest as it were!

Theresa - Oh it is so dreadfully difficult not to be able to talk about how you feel on this matter. I spent years writing diaries about 'missing pieces' and never quite feeling whole. I thought is was mainly because I was also brought to another country but the UK adoptees I know have expressed similar feelings to mine, so it affects us all.

The US adoption laws are archaic, and designed to 'protect' adoptees from what exactly? From knowing who you are? It incenses me, but I'm not the only one. Canadian law allow us our original documents but you still have to either trace on your own, as I did, or go through social services. In the UK you have to go through social services and if adopted before a certain date you can't have access to your info until the authorities have contacted all parties concerned and made the decision on your behalf. Nightmare. A friend of mine started the process and was so disturbed by it - being treated like a half-wit for one, knowing they KNOW and won't tell you, for another - that they couldn't continue dealing with them and have had to leave their trace half way through.

You may find some useful info at www.bastards.org which is a primarily US website for adoptees and our rights.

Tracing is not an easy option, it must be said. Sometimes a second rejection is too much to bear, and you never know what state you'll find your birth parent/s in either. My own story is rosy yes, but complete with thorns! No expectations is my best advice, and have people around you who are supportive. "I don't know know why it evens matters so much!" and similar comments are plentiful, and do not help at all. I wish you the best of luck and hope you find what you are looking for. X