An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
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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.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!