“I feel like a mistake.”
“I’m not like them.”
“Where’s my family?”
“Why can’t I find a suitable career?”
“Why do I keep dating the wrong people?”
These are just a few of the thoughts adoptees voice, if you listen to them carefully.
While adopted parents want to believe that they’re the real parents of an adopted child, the truth is they are not the real biological parents. And no matter how loving a home they have provided their adopted child, the child has real psychological needs just like everybody else.
And when an adopted child speaks up, voicing their feelings about their need to know their birth parents, the automatic response of adoptive parents is often one of hurt, confusion, and protest. “Why, we love you just like our own” is the common response and while many adopted parents feel this is the most loving thing they could say, it’s actually hurtful. Why? Adopted children need to express their need to know their biological parents. Not knowing where they come from affects their whole life: who they are, who they might become, who they choose to have relationships with, and what choice or lack of choice they make for a career. It affects all of their life choices, and denying this real psychological need only makes things worse.
It’s far worse to deny your feelings than it is to admit to truth. Admitting to truth may not change things outwardly, but it does give a person a sense of authenticity that affects everything in their life. If their feelings are repressed or criticized, they may feel that something is wrong with them. Because the truth is, the truth, or what they believe inside themselves is what drives their life and influences every decision they make.
Feeling like a mistake is one of the most detrimental subconscious feeling there is. If you believe that you are a mistake, you will turn on yourself and it will show in your life. You won’t believe you deserve the best for yourself and you will make decisions accordingly. Eventually, you may have unhealthy relationships, more prone to physical addictions (such as food, drink, drug, or sex abuse), and an unfulfilled life at the very least.
If you haven’t experienced this yourself or know somebody who has, you may not be as tuned in to this issue. But to anyone who does have up-close experience, the signs are quite clear. And while I wasn’t adopted, I didn’t know my biological father growing up, and I noticied I had similar symptoms as those who are adopted.
I first became aware of my own repressed feelings to find my father when the Oregonian published an article about the new open adoption policy and the resulting controversy. Birth moms felt betrayed because they had been reassured nobody would ever know about the child they gave up for adoption. Adoptees were ecstatic because finally the records would be open and they would be given their first clues as to the identity of their birth moms, and to their identity.
I, too, had little information to go on about my biological father. I later found and met my father and that’s when I started writing about my experience, hoping to share it with others, and to raise an awareness about this topic and the emotional needs involved.
What we mustn’t forget is that the most important person in any adoption is the child. We need to know that going in. It’s not about our need to have a child and to be fulfilled. It’s about caring for a growing human being. And in addition to offering our love and physical care of the child, we also need to make a commitment to support them in their quest to find their birth parents, and, consequently, to find themselves. Because if we really love them, we won’t deny their need to find an important piece of the puzzle about their identity, the decisions they make, and their entire future. And having a loving relationship with them includes a willingness to be open, honest, and authentic. That’s what real love is.
Myths of the Fatherless by Kathy Holmes
Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl? The Impact on Fatherlessness in the Black Community by Jonetta Rose Barras
Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge