Adoption makes families. And families are important. Many people I meet tell me what a wonderful person I am for adopting my daughter. “She is so lucky to have you,” I’ve heard time and time again. I feel we are the lucky ones to have her.
I was adopted as a baby and so was my brother. I am an adoptee and adopter. And I do take pride in this.
But adoption also has a side seldom talked about: trauma. It is the elephant in the room. The truth is adoption can be traumatic. Different levels of trauma may be experienced by some or all of those involved in the adoption process. Those most directly affected are the biological family (especially the mother, the adopted child, and the adoptive family).
I am going to touch on the trauma as an adoptee. I have experienced this first hand. Of course, adoption is a wonderful thing. I have a family who I love dearly because of it and as an adult, I realize how lucky I am. But for me, it has been a very long journey.
Adoption trauma hurts me to the core. I experienced the loss of my parent at birth. I feel like I knew this instinctually and grieved well into my childhood. Then, it got more complicated when my adoptive parents explained things to me. They explained the best they could. They always tried to make me feel special because they wanted me so much. Unfortunately, they had to push through my grief and low self-worth, which was already there from the trauma of losing my first parent.
At that time, I was 13-years-old. I already had so many confusing things to deal with just because I was a teenager. Working through being adopted was an added emotional journey. At times, it seemed like I was deep in grief. But as a teenager, I didn’t have the understanding of grief that I do now as an adult.
Sometimes were harder than others. One of the hardest times was when I gave birth to my first child. As a mother myself, I now understood how painful it would be if I had to break that precious bond we had formed with our son even before he was born. But there was also great joy. For the first time, I saw someone who shared my DNA!
My birthday is also hard. It is the day that the first connection to my biological family was broken by adoption. There are other special occasions that are also difficult. Like when I married my husband. Even though I had the best dad anyone could ever hope for walk me down the aisle and a mom who was beaming with pride to see me on that beautiful day, I still was thinking about my birth family bond. The “what ifs” can be very hard to deal with.
I encourage those who are a part of adoption to seek help in dealing with the traumatic moments. Sometimes therapy is a good option. There are also many support groups for biological parents, adoptees (both children and adult), and adoptive parents. Going through this grief process with peers can be very helpful.
It is important for society to realize the trauma that can often come with adoption. We need to realize that the children have experienced a loss. Grief must be felt, experienced, and acknowledged.
This page on Recognizing the Effects of Trauma on Children can help.