An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
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Tag: birth mother

The Atlantic’s ‘Dear Therapist’ Surprising Response about Adoption

June 29, 2019
woman writing on a computer - representing an adoption therapis

The Atlantic Monthly magazine recently published a ‘Dear Therapist’ column about the adoptee experience.

A letter was written by a grandmother (Lynne) concerned that her daughter’s child whom she relinquished for adoption was not interested in knowing her biological mother.

The therapist’s response to Lynne was a reassuring piece valuing the adopted daughter’s experiences. I was shocked.

In the mainstream media and national publications, it is extremely rare for someone who is not an adoptee to articulate the adoptee experience as Ms. Gottlieb did. I commend her for writing an answer that centered the adoptee’s needs, and not the wants or needs of the biological mother or the grandmother.

Everyone should read this article

Her reply ‘legitimizes’ what so many adoptees have been saying and feeling for years. I use ‘legitimizes’ in quotes, because I think adoptees have their opinions disregarded as not professional enough or too experiential. Therefore, for a non-adopted therapist to say and use language that an adopted person would use, means we speak truth, not just personally, but objectively.

I double checked to ensure that Ms. Gottlieb is not an adoptee. I could scarcely believe that someone who is not adopted could write so eloquently about the feelings of adoptees and try to see things from their perspective.

One of my ‘adoption mantras,’ that I share consistently on this blog, and in person, is that ‘adoption is not about you, it is about the adoptee.’ People need to focus on them and their needs. This article reinforced that in a beautiful way.

In my experience the adoptee community quickly judges opinions and viewpoints which fail to recognize that adoption has two sides.

We (rightly) criticize writing and speech focusing only on the fairy tale adoption narrative but ignores the pain, loss, hurt, anger and other emotions that adoptees experience.

It follows we must also praise and support those writing about adoption.

Some clearly understand there are multiple angles to it. Like this therapist.

But, the adoptee community cannot just be one that tears down differing viewpoints, as wrong as those sentiments are. Everyone gains when adoptees are more engaged in the dialogue.

Can we really blame the non-adoptee community for being uninformed and ignorant about adoption realities – if until recently the entire narrative about adoption was written by adoptive parents and agencies?

I am glad this piece was written and was encouraged by its tone.  The admonishment that ‘right now, there doesn’t seem to be much regard for your daughter’s biological child’s wants or needs—your perspective seems to be all about your daughter’s desire for this relationship,” was a welcome change to typical adoption stories.

I hope that Lynne and her daughter open their eye and see the harm in placing their needs above their grand-daughter and child.

And I wish that all answers from non-adopted people were this thoughtful and considerate of the adoptee experience.

Even If I Could Find my Birthmother – Fear Prevents Me

November 9, 2017

For most of my life, I’ve said I am fine without knowing my birth/first mother. That is untrue.

The reality is somewhere in the middle. Pondering my roots is not keeping me awake at night, but I do wonder about my beginnings more often than I’ve previously admitted.

I am curious to know anything about my biological family. But I’m unwilling to sacrifice the enormous amount of time, energy, and emotional labor to find them.

My Birth Hospital Kerala

As a speaker and writer in the adoption space for nearly a decade, the birthmother quest is one of the triumvirates of the international adoption arena. The other ones are: Have you returned to your birth country? And how was adoption discussed in your house growing up?

People consistently ask if I’ve met my birthmother, or hope to find her. I’m 38 years old and terrified to search.

The woman who raised me and who I call ‘Mom’ is one of my best friends. I love her immensely and cannot imagine any mother loving me more than she does.

I wonder about my first mother sometimes, but searching for and finding her is a scary thought. The woman who birthed me has been absent from my life for almost its entirety.

Finding my biological mother requires sifting through reams of historical records because the only identifying information in my passport is one name;

Joseph.

There is no last name or middle name. The address recorded is the foundling home where I lived until adoption. My adoptive Dad is listed as my ‘Father.’ No records exist about my biological father.

How could I search using such paltry information? Any birth record, if a hospital kept them, would be in my native tongue, Malayalam. Examining the logistics involved (staying long-term, finding readers of Malayalam and good English speakers, to direct me, ask questions etc.) would be a supremely daunting task.

Kerala is the size of Switzerland with a population of 35 million people.

My parent’s feelings would not be hurt if I searched. If I sought her, they would not see my wish to find her as a threat. Their attitude would be the opposite. I’m sure they would encourage me, support my quest and ask many questions during the process. They’ve always worked creating an emotionally healthy and transparent adoption experience for me and my siblings.

Once, I had a ‘birthmother’ hole that I longed to fill. I still do, but the void has lessened with my daughter Sonali’s birth. I don’t feel a gnawing for a biological connection anymore.

For much of my life, I pretended that I didn’t care.

But that was insincere. I respect my birthmother and wish her the best, wherever she might be. I think about her on Mother’s Day, my birthday and my adoption anniversary.

But I have no idea what I’d say to her if we actually met. When I run through the possible scenarios in my mind, some meetings are horrible and others are wonderful.

We could have a beautiful reunion. It’s possible we would get along splendidly, both respecting boundaries, developing a deep and lasting relationship. We might be able to ‘make-up’ for the lost lifetime away from one another.

Or it could be dreadful.

What if she does not want to know anything about me? Maybe she’d resent me for inserting myself back into her life. Possibly she’d reject me as an adult, cursing me for finding her. She might begrudge my American life, constantly ask for money, and use my position as her child to gain emotional leverage over me. These are not outlandish reunion scenarios. I’ve heard of them happening to other adoptees.

I’ll never know what the exact storyline might be.

Thinking about the added drama knowing my past would bring into my life is intimidating. Through much of my existence, I’ve viewed meeting my biological mother as a cost-benefit analysis. Would I gain as much finding her, as I would potentially give up by having my life upended so viscerally?

The answer for me is a resounding no. It’s too jarring and I’ll just live without knowing.

For many adoptees, finding their birth mother or father is of paramount importance. I’m still exploring how important it is for me.

I waffle about wanting to know my origins and I don’t know where I would begin. If I could salve the wound in my life, forever answering the missing part of my narrative I’d think about it. But finding her would be nearly impossible.

I visited the hospital of my birth in 2011. It was a powerful emotional experience.

It was the closest I’ll ever be to my birth mother and I am coming to peace with that.