From adopting a child to being an adopted child
Guest Post by Gian M. Schauer for Adopt-a-tude
I’ve had a couple of epiphanies at past adoption conferences. One led me to a husband. The other still has me searching.
I am adopted. I am interested in adopting an older child. I had contemplated giving up my birth daughter for adoption back in the ‘80s. I’ve been a foster parent. I could pretty much sit in on any talk at an adoption conference and find something that resonated with me.
It was the stuff that didn’t resonate that brought on my “ah-ha” moments.
My first moment of clarity came during a break at a Single Parent Adoption conference. I had been in presentations and break-out sessions listening to people talk about the joys of adoption and the struggles of parenting an adopted child. Their tales all sounded familiar, even though I didn’t have an adopted child.
Then it hit me. I’d had the same struggles parenting my birth daughter, not because she was adopted but because I was parenting alone. If I continued down this path of single-parent adoption, I thought, I would be telling these same stories of time management, depleted energy levels, and the frustration of facing decisions alone.
What I was longing for was not just another child—I already had a wonderful one. I wanted someone with which to share another child.
With new clarity, I left the conference and got busy. I talked it out with my shrink and increased my dating search. A couple of years later, I got married on a boat in the Caribbean.
That’s not the end of my story.
I had also been attending general adoption conferences, not just those for single parents. Other conferences offered many different topics, depending on your interests. As I sat in rooms full of adoptive parents discussing their issues with their adopted children, I stopped hearing the voices of the parents and starting thinking about my own voice as an adopted child.
That’s when I had “ah-ha” moment number two.
I didn’t need to learn anything more about adopting someone else right now. I needed to learn more about the adoption of me.
I’m not talking about the usual stuff like who my birth mother was or if I had any half-siblings. Not yet. What I needed to address was what it meant to me to be an adopted child.
I listened to experts and other adopted people talk about things like “The Primal Wound” and “always looking for your people.” Those things didn’t ring true for me. I turned protective of the adopted children in stories. I got frustrated with my shrink when she said perhaps I was experiencing things in a certain way because I was adopted. I researched attachment disorder in adults to figure out my relationship problems. I stopped reading studies about older children in the foster-care system or fetal alcohol effects and started thinking about my own birth and adoption circumstances.
Being adopted is a part of me. But is it a bigger part of me than growing up in a small town in the Midwest, having freckles, or being tall? I wasn’t comfortable with the generalization that all adopted kids were more difficult as adolescents anymore than everyone with freckles is a class clown. I didn’t go around in life searching for someone who looked like me or someone who could understand me anymore than my friends who weren’t adopted searched for those things.
So what was I curious about? I wasn’t sure about starting a search for my birth mom. I understood what she must have gone through to give me up, but I didn’t need to see her, touch her, connect with her.
Or did I? I tiptoed around the subject, reading online stories of how people found birth parents but never starting my own search. I didn’t talk with anyone about this, either. Instead I just quietly sat in small groups at these conferences, thinking about the circumstances behind my own adoption and wondering about the life path of my birth mother. My curiosity took me from wondering about adopting a child to wondering about being an adopted adult.
I have stopped planning and searching for a child to adopt. I have started searching for my inner adopted child. Maybe one day when I sort out the imprint that adoption has left on me, I will move my attention towards finding my birth family. And maybe after that, I will be interested in adopting a child with my husband.
For now, I’m not attending any more adoption conferences.