Why are you so angry? Part two
A confession... I wasn’t telling the whole truth in my popular blog post about angry adoptees…
I worked so hard on my blog post Why are you so angry? It’s been read by 1.5k people and is my second most popular post after What does it take to love an adoptee? The post was prompted by an email I received from a single male adopter asking (rhetorically I think),“Hello, i've (sic) parts of your blog. You seem very angry that you were adopted. I find that hard to understand- would you rather a child not prosper mentally and go on to lead a better life and have a dad/mother who loves and cares for them.”
In response to this, I wanted to explain in a constructive way why many adopted people are angry. I wanted to explain why having adoptive parents who love and care for you is not always enough. And I wanted to refute the suggestion that being adopted means you can prosper mentally (once I’d finished totting up how many thousands of pounds I’d spent on therapy).
Rather than my personal story, I chose to focus on things like the social narrative around adoption and the disenfranchised grief adoptees feel. All of my points were researched and from the heart. However, I deliberately didn’t share much of my story. I was terrified of ‘being found out’ and being labelled ungrateful. Not by haters on the internet, but by the people who matter dearly to me. I was terrified of tempting fate and ruining my reunion should any of my bios stumble across the blog. Worse still, I was terrified my parents, brother and sister would see it and metaphorically throw me out; closing ranks as those bound by blood are known to do.
So, almost a year later, here are some of the things I am really angry about. Looking at the list, many of them I’m actually really sad about. There is a known link between anger and sadness: the NHS states that anger can be a part of grief and “…there are things that make lots of us feel angry, including being treated unfairly and feeling powerless to do anything about it.”
It goes without saying that my parents did a lot of things right, and I was – on the spectrum of adoptees – incredibly fortunate to track down and meet both bio parents. Goes without saying, and yet I feel the need to add it here. Mum, if you’re reading – this is my disclaimer. I love you and I know you did the best with what you knew at the time. It just wasn’t always enough.
The secrets we keep
My birth mum initially didn’t tell my biological dad she was expecting. (This may have been the first recorded incidence of “ghosting” someone you dated.)
My paternal grandparents were not told or asked if they would consider raising me.
My biological father was not named on my birth certificate as was the law at that time: couple not married + father not present at registration = “Father unknown”. (Remember these were the days when a man’s reputation was more important than a child/future adult’s identity*.)
My parents waited until I was 13 to tell me I had been an identical twin. We were both due to be adopted by my parents but because she died at birth she never became part of our family and was never considered their child or my siblings’ sister.
My twin was buried in a communal grave behind the hospital and I had to contact the local council myself to be given the ‘co-ordinates’ of the grave. I visited this baby cemetery by myself and will never forget the chilling experience. Why have my parents not visited?
My dad intimated that my biological dad was a nasty piece of work, so I believed for a number of years I may be the product of rape or incest.
The baby they longed for
I was in hospital for 16 days after I was born and my mum can’t remember on which of these days she met me.
My dad’s mother disowned him after they adopted me. They weren’t on the best of terms anyway, but a bastard baby was the nail in the coffin.
From quite a young age, my mum told me she “tried for ten years before you came along”. As I grew older the penny dropped… if a woman can theoretically get pregnant 12 times a year, they tried 120 times before they conceded defeat. Although very loved, I was not especially ‘wanted’ or ‘special’, I was choice number 121.
My parents had two biological children after adopting me and another little girl. I love my siblings dearly but I cannot deny this family dynamic was challenging.
Therapeutic parenting hadn’t been invented
My parents didn’t recognise/support me with my attachment-related feelings and behaviours.
My parents moved house a lot and I went to four primary schools, which I believe exacerbated my attachment issues.
My compliance and people-pleasing was not discouraged, in fact at times it was encouraged as this made for a simpler life for my parents.
Some of my idiosyncrasies were seen as odd and different by my parents. The same for my sister. Our quirks were not celebrated or even recognised as a) they didn’t fit in and b) they may be genetic and passed down from ‘they who must not be named’.
My sister and I were not encouraged to have our own stories; we were characters in our parents’ adoption story.
When my sister said she wanted to find her birth mum, aged about 11, my mum scoffed rather than swallow her pride and normalise those (normal) feelings.
Are you the woman I’ve been searching for?
I can’t really be mad at my birth mum because she was adopted herself (at an older age than me in sadder circumstances) and didn’t hugely get on with her parents i.e. had a ‘worse’ adoption experience than me.
My birth mother admitted she drank and smoke during pregnancy and “walked up and down a lot of stairs” from which you can draw your own conclusions.
When I travelled 2+ hours with my baby to see my birth mother she chain smoked for the whole afternoon.
Early on in reunion my birth mum forgot my birthday. (I know memory loss is a recognised phenomenon with birth mothers; it still made me feel pretty shitty.)
Still my dad even if you didn’t want to raise me
My biological father didn’t tell his children they had a sister.
My biological father’s wife refused to meet me for a few years. When we were due to meet and I got stuck in traffic, she said it was a sign from God and cancelled the visit.
He had to be cajoled into telling his mother and siblings about me.
When I said being adopted was hard, he asked me to imagine what it was like to be a young man in the late 1970’s. I kid you not.
Of course we don’t mind you searching!
My parents knew my birth mother’s married name but kept it from me. I spent my late teens and early 20s searching for her using laborious non-internet methods.
When I showed a boyfriend all my files, he looked at my birth mother’s marriage certificate dated a few years after I was born and said, “So you’re officially a bastard then.”
I asked my biological and adoptive parents to meet for the first time over a coffee before my wedding day. They refused and I was so anxious I got hammered and don’t remember over half of the day. I feel sad when I look at some of my wedding photos.
More support needed for adopted adults
There are lots of things to be happy about, even grateful for, with my life as it is now. This is not a blog about how much my mum loves me and how much joy she gets from my children. This is a blog about anger and sadness and not getting the right support particularly as a child but also as an adopted adult in reunion. I had some support from PAC-UK and some self-funded therapy but I have mostly relied on peer support to get me though reunion, which has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life.
Thank you to On Being Adopted, Anne Heffron, Caitriona Palmer, Haley Radkee, Sarah Meadows, Mark Wilson and all my on- and offline adoptee friends – you rock. Thank you for making this lonely and misunderstood journey that bit easier.
*Not sure how much further society has come on this one. Answers on a postcard!