I overheard an adoptive mother who said that adoptees would have an easy life and no problems whatsoever if we chose to, “because it all depends on our personality”. Simple as that! I did not bother to argue with her, knowing only too well that it would lead nowhere. I just shook my head and felt sorry for her adoptive son who was, of course, the only coloured kid among the white children in the park.
She really did not get it, and there are surprisingly few who do. How long will adoptive parents continue to stick their heads in the sand and pretend there are no problems? We do not choose to be torn away from our natural mother and dragged to a faraway country, and we certainly do not choose it simply to learn to deal with our weaknesses, just to become strong. Not to show tears if we are teased, not to show sadness if we are mistreated. Not to feel anger if we are treated unfairly. Personality has nothing to do with it. It’s like taking a child who has not yet learned to swim, throw her in the ocean and expect her to “deal with it”.
Even if the adoptive parents have the best intentions, and they mean well and wish to protect us from the troubles of a cruel world, it does not help if they insist on denying we are different, and we are not yours, we did not come from you. It’s obvious to each and every one of us as soon as we learn to recognize our own face in the mirror, and see that we don’t look like you and everybody else around us. It’s as plain as the nose on your face, whatever colour it happens to be.
We each came from the womb of our mother. We spent nine months inside her, and until we were born that was the only world we knew. For our entire lives we had been surrounded by the warmth and sounds, the movements and the heartbeat of our natural mother. It was an intimate relationship, to say the least. Babies and mothers already love each other from the start, nature prepares us for meeting her, our mother. We belonged there, cradled in her arms, and it was never meant to be just for a little while. A newborn baby who is put to her mother’s breast after birth feels safe, comfortable in familiar surroundings. A newborn who is taken away from her mother, even to be held by another woman, is thrown into a world that is not familiar, not comfortable, and she does not feel safe.
Why is this not obvious to everyone? Only the real mother can make her baby feel secure enough to develop fully, and give butterfly kisses and true love. All first mothers do that. I was no exception when I saw my two precious daughters for the first time, how wonderful it was to see them and cradle them in my arms, and when I looked into their eyes I saw part of me in them. I had felt them inside me for nine months, and I loved them in my heart long before I could hold them in my arms.
The child-and-mother bonding is a continuation of the relationship that began during pregnancy. Why are adoptive parents shocked to find that the adoptive child does not bond immediately, or maybe never? Keep in mind that all babies are adapted to their mothers when they are born. Placing a child with an adoptive mother is like trying to fit together two unmatching pieces from two different puzzles, which inevitably becomes a problem. It’s as simple as that.
Seasons and years have come and gone, and my kids are growing up. One is now an adult, and one is still a teenager. I am grateful that they have different and better lives than I got. They’ve never had to wonder who their mother and father is, never had to deal with adoption issues, of being “unmatched pieces of a puzzle”. They’ll never have to feel that a huge part of their lives is missing, never wonder where they come from. Never had to experience trauma upon trauma and later have to deal with the resulting emotional problems as adults. They are spared this suffering, and this is the way life is meant to be. They feel secure and they will always have someone who truly, truly love them, whom they belong with.
I have told them about memorable moments of their lives, things that they themselves may not remember. I told my youngest daughter how proud I was when one day she could stand all by herself on the floor for the very first time. It only lasted for a few seconds one evening, but the memory of that moment is still fresh. Her face just a big smile, shining brightly with happy rays where she stood. I’ll never forget that special moment. She was my shining star too, right there in our little Universe in the kitchen, she and I, our two hearts beating together as one.
When my first born was just over a year old, almost twenty years ago, we were watching the first snow together through the window. It was close to Christmas, and she was so cute wearing her little brown hat. When I lit the the first of the four Advent candles and saw her expression, I could see stars in her eyes. It was so touching, and so very precious. She pointed at the candles and smiled, and my heart was filled to the brim with love. A very precious moment for me, which I never forget.
A few years later we had our own little chicken farm. Every day my daughters were busy collecting eggs and feeding the hens. Some times my oldest daughter would pick up the rooster, place him on the handlebars of her bicycle and give him a windy ride downhill with her little sister in tow on her tricycle, two proud and happy faces in a hurry. They used to sell eggs to our nearest neighbours, with the rooster still sitting on the bike’s handlebars, and I don’t think the neighbour will ever forget that. She told me she could not believe her eyes the first time she saw that. We have smiled at that memory many times since.
These and many more are little glimpses of my children’s childhoods. They are my precious diamonds because they are both part of me, they will always be in my heart, because they are my flesh and blood. I share these pearls with you to illustrate that natural mothers and their children have a special bond, one that no one can truly replace.
— Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, “Scent of a Woman”
There is so much documentation about attachments problems, racial problems, insecurity, grief and anger related to adoption. It can hardly be called a secret. It’s high time that you who have already adopted, and you who want to adopt, pull your heads out of the sand and realize that you have to deal with all this, in addition to “just raising a child”. It is no walk in the park, no piece of cake, and it is no Disney fairytale, there is no guarantee of a cute and happy ending. Adoption is equal to loss, sorrow and grief for the child whichever way you look at it. It is you, the adoptive parent, who is going to have to “deal with it!” . You can’t push the responsibility for your choice onto the child.
Make sure you’re up to the task, or don’t adopt. I would honestly prefer that you didn’t.