The title of this blog is taken from a TED speech made by Andrew Solomon on a presentation he made titled " How the worst moments in our lives make us who we are" it was a inspirational talk and I now wish to try to place it into context in relation to those of us affected by Adoption.
The perception of adoption as presented by glassy advertisements by agencies wishing to sell a product and the media is one of either a heroic Boadecia proudly giving up her newborn to a loving well adjusted forever family, the supreme sacrifice only a good human being can give . The other is that of a wasted child in a dirty grotty orphanage in some far corner of the world waiting to be saved by a loving western family and being reared in a humane understanding non judgemental society.
Nothing like a good piece of fiction and slick salesmanship to sell a good product and nothing can be further from the truth.
Adoption is and always will be about Loss, Pain, Emotional Trauma and a lifetime of multiple issues that will always float to the surface. There is nothing heroic about a woman who through a multitude of reasons has to, or is forced to , lose responsibility of her child or children. And no matter how they try to gloss it over with so called open adoption, the fact that the mothers family values will never ever be ingrained into that child means a permanent loss of a branch on the family tree. Losing a child to adoption is possibly a larger cost to a mother that the death of a child because for the rest of their lives the matter of " what If" will always be there.
I do not propose to talk a great deal about mothers except to say that "one of the worst moments of their lives" has helped to make them who they are. Many have bravely moved on developing another meaning to life and a identity. I have met many of these ladies and they are quite content to live the lives they have in a form of contentment forging a meaning to life within their family structure. I have also met many mothers who have forged meaning thus building their identity out of this moment by not only developing a another life but also by telling the world exactly what happened and the brutality of it all, Some of these mothers , there are too many to mention are Sue MacDonald, Christine Cole, Lily Arthur, Pam O'Brien, Barbara Maison. There are too many to mention but without there efforts society would not have been truly aware of our troubled and brutal past. They have forged meaning out of life and then built a identity for themselves. Finally there are the mothers and sadly , who i will not name who never quite managed to forge meaning out of the adversity of their lives and as such can be identified as those who have let anger, rage and obsession rule their lives to the point it consumes their emotions. For those folk, i hope Andrews dissertation may help them to move on and forge meaning.
Adoptees at some time in their lives often view their lives as having no real identity. This is based upon the simple fact that they lost their original name upon adoption and the new family is for many purposes not their own. The Primal Wound often describes this loss of identity and bond as a major cause of grief amongst us. One could say that at some period of all of our lives, we adoptees must face this hurdle. late discovery adoptees have a extra burden of being kept in the dark for so many years. Adoption is one of the worst moments in our lives and even though we do not remember it , (if we were under three) it always will make us what we are and our subconscious will always use the adoption experience to influence how we react to given situations. Adoption is the removal of a family heritage and substituting it with a artificial heritage, that of the folk who adopted us and this is why people like Nancy Verrier write about the Primal Wound and loss of identity. There is a primal wound that is etched in our subconscious but i do question the use of the term identity. It is the natural heritage that was taken so brutally (yes in a infants mind it was brutal removal from the source of sustenance), but was it our identity as our identity had not been forged at the time of removal. For those who think i am espousing the blank slate theory nothing could be further from the truth. Our combined DNA of our parents will be there affecting our long term health, the colour of out eyes hair, skin and yes even many personality traits. And the time spent in our mothers womb will influence our natural language, our stress factors if she is stressed out with fear etc, the affects of what she smokes , drinks or eats. These all affect how we, the adoptee functions as we move on in life. but a blank slate we ate not.
As we grow and develop then other matters intertwine to forge our meaning in life and eventually our identity, Many adoptees have experience severe trauma from the adoptive parents and this will also be a matter of adversity that will make you who your are. For others it might be the early departure for schooling and the confirmation of the subconscious that you have only yourself to rely on. In life you may be involved in horrific incidents like motor vehicle accident, wars, marital and relationship breakdowns, death of loved ones, the lists go on. All these tragedies along with adoption can be looked upon as huge negatives or can be used to forge your unique meaning to life and thus building your identity as a human being. Easy, not at all and every worst moment will mean that you revaluate your life, your meaning of life and the identity that is being built. This building must continue to your last breath on earth which again proves you are always learning evaluating forging its meaning and building it into your identity. Again the choice of how your identity develops is yours. There are many out there like Elizabeth Hughes, Charlotte Smith who have built their identity in using their skills to heal, others like Zara Phillips and DMZ who have used their worst moments of their lives to build successful careers in the arts. Others have built successful political careers and careers in industry. Again sadly there are those who have allowed the worst moment of their life to over run their lives and turn them into angry and bitter people always finding excuses and others to blame for their actions.
We are what we forged and built . Our lives is littered with bad decisions and good ,which have affected how we have forged meaning and built our identities. Identity is not developed before we were born and the trauma of removal at a babies age. it is developed subsequent to that and whilst part of building meaning in our lives there are so many other worst moments in our lives which have also helped to forge. Just maybe we should be careful not to confuse our heritage which is very important with identity which has been forged from the best and worse moments of our lives and many other events in between.
Thank you Andrew Solomon for your wisdom