Even though the popular view of adoption is one of rainbows, unabashed happiness, and joy, there’s just no getting past the unescapable fact that at its base adoption is about pain. I’ll use as an example my Bug. This morning on the way to daycare Bug declared “You know what? I don’t remember what my birth parents look like anymore.” Now the fact that she was 4 days old the last time she saw them and so never really had any conscious memories of them is beside the point. I asked her if this made her sad, and she said yes. I also asked her if she wanted to know them one day, to which she also said yes.
I completely get this. I know some adoptees don’t care a whit about finding their birthparents, but I know as a kid I was obsessed with biological connections– I wanted to know about family members I looked and acted like. I wanted to know about family history. And I can see that my Bug has that same drive, even though she’s not quite 5. For Bug, and most adoptees, that biological tie is broken and that source of information is gone. I can already see that is painful for her, and that pain is only going to increase as she gets older. Having adoptive parents who love her is beside the point– loving adoptive parents are a great thing, but they don’t and can’t take away the pain of losing that biological tie.
Think about it– adoption is only possible because a child has known the pain of being taken from his or her biological parents, a pain most of us can’t ever know. My gain is due to my daughter’s loss. For my Bug, that pain is palpable– though she’s a happy, wonderful kid, she’s experienced clear developmental trauma akin to PTSD from losing first her biological parents and then her beloved foster parents. Her brain chemistry has been fundamentally altered and that change and will affect her the rest of her life. Make no mistake– we are getting Bug appropriate medical treatment and psychological therapies to try to help her deal with the damage, but the developmental damage is done, and she will be dealing with that pain the rest of her life.
Secondary to my daughter’s pain of not knowing her biological origins is my pain as an adoptive parent. While my pain pales in comparison to that of my daughter’s, it pains me that I can’t take away her pain. That’s the cruelty of adoption for adoptive parents– you want so badly to be a parent, you are handed a child to love, and you think all the pain is going away. Unfortunately, the pain is just beginning. Only once the child is real and in front of you do you really understand that your child has a pain you can’t take away. It’s a hard reality to accept. I know all parents have to accept that they can’t fix all their child’s hurts, but this is a big hurt to have to live with.
Even though I can’t take away Bug’s pain and loss, and I have to accept it as a part of our reality, I can do all in my power to not contribute further. So this morning when Bug told me she wanted to know what her birth parents, I asked her if she ever wanted to find them. She wholeheartedly said yes. So I promised her I would do all in my power to try to find them for her. I may not succeed, but I never want to add to Bug’s pain by failing to try.