Adoption Anger

See my Adoption BEWareness Month blog for details on my November mission: exposing the things people don’t want to admit about adoption.

Why do people deny anger over adoption?

“Anger,” like “grateful,” is a loaded word, most often used as an epithet by the uninformed. “Why are you so angry?” people ask, when they find out you’re an adoptee/a first mother/searching/reunited. Even amongst ourselves, members of the adoption triad feel we cannot express our anger for fear of being ostracized. Why? Why are those most impacted by adoption, adoptees and birth relatives, forbidden to express their true feelings?

Speaking from the adoptee perspective, I’ve always felt angry about adoption. At first it was a wordless anger, something simmering in the back of my mind that gave my child-self one hell of a temper. My adoptive parents frequently disdained that I was “always angry.” Well, I was. I was angry at them for trying to be substitutes for the family I lost, despite being adopted as an infant and supposedly not old enough to remember. I was angry at my birth mother for not taking care of me. I was angry at a world that would allow a kid to be so completely cut off from anything recognizable and familiar on the blood level as “family.”

As a teenager it was anger at those around me, for trying to fit me into the adoptee mold. I didn’t call it that, not then; all I knew was that I wanted to be myself and others had enormous expectations of me, especially my adoptive family. When you’re adopted, it’s like you’re expected to play a certain role in a stage play, except you’ve never seen the script and are thrust into the middle of Act 2 on opening night. And the audience is staring at you, so you better say your lines right or reap the consequences.

When, as an adult, I started searching for my origins, it became an acute anger toward the hitherto-unknown denial of my civil rights. I learned I have a birth certificate faked by the state, and that the laws that protect others’ rights curtail mine. Worse, I discovered that my adoptive parents lied about what they knew; in fact my adoptive father continued to do so to his grave. The bureaucracy surrounding adoption records “access” has to be experienced to be believed. It seemed like everyone else in the world knew where I came from, except me. Some office flunky could sit at a desk with MY adoption file and yet I’m Not Worthy!

Lately it has become a deep and steady anger, one that keeps me explaining to legislators, reporters, adopters, agencies, and basically anyone who will listen what the adoption experience is truly like. Today I get angry that I have to do this at all, that I have to expose my private trauma in order to regain the same rights everyone else has. But then I hear from people who whisper to me in private email, saying thank you for saying what we didn’t know how to say or were afraid to say. That’s the only thing that makes the whole ugly experience worthwhile. I should say thank you to all of you, for the support you have given me.

Adoption is like a frozen lake. On the surface it looks beautiful, but underneath is a roiling turmoil. By ignoring the turmoil, we venture onto the ice at our peril. If we deny the anger we feel toward adoption, we deny our own experiences and wisdom. Let’s use that anger constructively to make the adoption experience as rare (yes, rare!) and transparent as possible.


  1. http://Anonymous says

    My sons are 20, 22 and 39. A scant 3 weeks ago, I found “Gordon”, the eldest. My other 2 sons grew up knowing that they have a 1/2 brother. Fear and guilt stopped me from saying Gordon was given to strangers because of coersion. Now I know that greed played a part, and this old hippie is ashamed to admit I could not say “no”. My younger sons only know me as a strong protector when their father hurt them so he could run away. Perhaps I am tougher now.

    You know, I am still too “young” at this to post a note that emotes all I feel. Having so recently “found” my son, this site scares me; really, scares me. He and I are too new at “hellos” to talk freely about how we feel, the expectations and the anger, the grief and the unecessary loss. To be able to express these things is a muzzle in itself.

    I am encouraged by the fact that he does not know what to call me. When I told this grown man to call me by my first name, at first he seemed relieved, but now cannot seem to say it. We have not met yet, but have exchanged picutes. In a crowd of 1000, I could have picked him out. His wife, a very strong woman, touts what she calls his “womanliness” and great affinity for his children, my grandchildren. I ache to know them, but cannot force myself on them; the fear that kept me searching on the edge. Yet he seemed to so glad to hear from me….

    After “the holidays”, I pray, he will keep his word and want to meet me in earnest. I have kept my promise to find him and tell him that I loved him before he was born, and would love him past my last breath. Now what?

  2. It does seem as though adoptees are condemned for expressing their feelings. I’m in my 60’s now and it still seems as though there is a label attached to my forehead saying “adoptee”. I do think that this label is permanently affixed because I will never quit speaking out for open records until all states are open. I realize that the chances of seeing that in my lifetime are slim. So I will always speak out and although I’m labeled as an angry adoptee and troublemaker I am only speaking out for a civil right to be restored to adult adoptees so that they can have their OBC just like the non-adoptees.

    Keep up the great blogging job, Triona! We certainly appreciate you as a strong advocate for the rights of adoptees too!!

  3. Anonymous – Thanks for posting. I get scared too, about the strength of my feelings about being adopted, about the anger and the grief and the confusion. But I think I’d be more scared if I was still bottling things up, pretending “as if” none of it bothered me. Now what? I don’t know. I’m not sure any of us know what to do except keep plodding forward, one step at a time.

    Mary Lynn – I appreciate all you do, too! And thank you for your work to reform adoption laws in Illinois and elsewhere.

  4. Now that I have read the ugly and discriminatory, let alone mean-spirited and hate mongering “anonymous” posts, I want to use my name, or a derivation of it. I did post with “ilexopaca3” last time, and may upload a picture. I need to figure out how. I am a “senior Mother”, even if my genes allowed me to be a dark-haired rather than grey-haired one for a few years longer.

    This site is saving my life, you know. Ah, the wasted years in guilt and desperation. And by the way, as an elder in my church, I believe that we are all saints, even the misguided, who think that we did something wrong in loving. Their gain, our loss no more; we are finding our strength and cannot be quieted. The Faithful supposedly support families. What about our timy families, one mother, one child? Do they remember that Mary was spared by a caring man who agreed to become a “step” support to a Bastard Son? We are ALL that Child of God and deserve better than we are or were given. At what cost do we kill the spirit?

    Tomorrow, when I deliver a sermon to the children in my congregation, I will tell them how much they are loved by those known and unknown to them. It is, after all, the beginning of Advent, as the many await the coming of our salvation. The Way, The Truth and The Light has never meant so much to me.

  5. Wow Triona, 2 things you wrote really struck me:
    1. That you felt like you had to play a role in a play that started for you in ACT 2.

    **I felt like this my WHOLE life. I realized it or discovered after my billionth shrink session! I was also adopted as an infant & was thought oh, they can’t remember anything. I felt so like an outsider even with my family. Part of me still does. I am actually referred to as the black sheep in my family. Not as a bad thing, just as the sibling that definitely marches to the beat of her own drummer. It is a one man band believe me.

    2. That some flunky office person has the right to look at your records and you don’t!
    **Oh, my gosh….do you know how often I have said & out loud, “Who the hell is this person with their big black sharpie making $2 an hour? They have the right to not only look at my record, but to decide what I am going to receive in regards to non-id? What the hell?

    I really emplore everyone on here to harness this anger as I have done after seeing what Triona does and the difference it makes.

    Harness it and use it to make a difference for yourself and every other Adoptee or BFAM member. The power in this harnessed anger coming together and used for reform I feel would be very powerful.

  6. Well, for us talking about our rightful anger at the oppression of closed Adoption Records comes at a bad time, because it seems to be the lastest fad to say to anyone online or off, why are you so angry? Get help. Like justified anger is some damn disease or something which is ridiculous. We have hit head on another agenda in this country, which is stifiling us even more. All this no hate mentality, wants to get rid of anger as a human emotion, yet we Adoptees and the BSE Moms, no one cares about how discriminated we are still-we aren’t one of the chosen, the protected groups, despite the fact, imo, that closing our records and stamping “bastard” on our birth certificates is as much of a hate crime as spray painting “fag” on a homosexuals car. We need to get more radical-and start filing suits of some sort against the Church and the Adoption Agencies, stating that the Birth Motehr Privacy Lie IS an act of discrimination in itself-that it is a hate crime. Because it is. Against illegitmates and single Mothers. We all need to remember that they ask why are you so angry, because they are scared too, because our anger is proof of the bigoted acts against us. With so much emphasis on predjudice now, THIS is the time for us to strike-we have never had a better time.

  7. Now, in my 50’s, I am finally grieving the birth parents I lost and was not allowed to know or speak about. Anger is part of grief. That grief will never be resolved and so the anger will persist. Anger can be a motivator, but it still has to seethe under the surface so we can simply get through the day. I find screaming obscenities at the objects of my anger (“family”, legal system) in a hot shower helps greatly! As does writing about it. Secrets imprisonned me; the truth is liberating. But the anger lives on for us bastards.

    Thank you to all the people who have so actively pursued adoptee’s rights and spoken about the “unspeakable” despite their pain and anger. I find mine to be crippling at points and mustering the energy to even write about it is still difficult.

    My husband is an adoptee who was stolen by a priest in 1948 and “given” to a “worthy” family. He paid a few thousand dollars to get his file unsealed in Georgia about 12 years ago. A lot of information including letters between local social services to Atlanta Social Services HQ describing what the priest did and that they don’t know how to handle this guy. HQ wrote back that the local priest wields a lot of power and it would be better to leave it alone! He became a Monsignor. This shit has gone on too long. If these letters would ever help in a lawsuit let me know. I am quite sure my husband would agree to participate. I just wrote more details in my blog, not wanting to take up too much in this comment space.

  8. I’ve had to shove my anger deep down over the past 44 years against my father for telling me I could not bring that “bastard” into his home. I loved my father and hated him at the same time. What a conflict of emotions. He died 35 years ago and I still regret to this day that I did not scream at him or confront him for what he did. For the loss of my daughter, the child I loved with all my heart and had to give up. The anger I feel surfaces every now and then but at my age, it dissipates fairly quickly. I can’t change anything.

    Teri Brown

  9. We have every right to be angry, adoptees and mothers! We were wronged, plain and simple.

    As for the new-fangled psycho-babble that says anger is bad and you need to let it go – well, that’s just another attempt to silence those who have something important to say.

    I also don’t subscribe to the notion of automatic forgiveness. Like respect, forgiveness must be earned. Some positive action must be performed by the wrongdoer to make up for the negative action. Until that happens forgiveness is off the table.

    To anonymous, your reunion is still new, but it sounds amazingly positive. I, too, have been lucky enough to have a positive reunion. My son and I haven’t had a chance to get to the tough emotions yet, but I’m sure that will come. Reading the blogs and learning from adoptees is the best preparation for that, IMHO. He also doesn’t seem to like calling me by my name! They know we are their mothers.