Are adoptees’ abilities to parent affected by their adopted status? Is there a cumulative effect upon successive generations? It’s not discussed much in the adoption community, but I believe the answer to both these questions is yes.
Personally, I can say being adopted continues to have a gigantic influence upon how I mother my kids. For one thing, I am deathly afraid of losing them. When I had my first child I insisted that she remain in the hospital room with me. Fortunately hospital policies these days encourage “rooming-in” as it’s called, but when she had to go to the nursery for check-ups I insisted to the point of hyperventilation that my husband stay with her AT ALL TIMES. Despite the security (mother-child arm bracelets, guards, cameras, alarms) I was terrified that someone was going to walk out the door with her. Same thing when I had my son, because in my gut it feels like that’s what happened to me. My birth mother surrendered me to the delivery doctor who took me directly from the hospital. Somehow that became ingrained in my psyche such that when I became a mother myself, it was the overriding instinct. (So much for the idea that babies don’t remember…)
I also find that I cherish my children far more than some people seem to. My son drew on the wall with blue marker the other day and I just laughed. My daughter ripped her pants up in the garden and I was delighted, although part of that may be because my adopted mother chided me for the exact same thing. I became a freelance consultant specifically in order to have maximum time with my (at that point future) kids. We hardly use babysitters, not because we don’t like to go out but because we’d rather go with the kids than without them. My husband’s idea of his 40th birthday party was to take the kids bowling and you know what? We had a blast. My kids are such a delight. I know most parents say that but MINE really ARE, not that I’m not biased or anything.
But there’s this dilemma when I look at these two identical copies of myself. Probably only the adoptees out there will know how weird it is to have the first biological relative you’ve ever met be your own child. That is so warped, so wrong, that it chokes me. The only birth relatives I’ve met are my own children! Who the hell decided to burden them with that? The baggage of my adoption passes onto them. Another part of it is the dilemma of having no background to share with them. We’re a severed twig of a family tree, me and these two new-sprouted leaves beside me. The weight of an entire clan rests on my shoulders. My Celtic ancestors shout at me across the ages, but I can’t hear what they’re saying. Do non-adopted people think about these things?
There’s a book I’ve wanted to read for a while called Stalking Irish Madness: Searching For The Roots Of My Family’s Schizophrenia by Patrick Tracey. In one of those blinding strokes of synchronicity that sometimes strike adoptees, I knew I was Irish long before I saw any non-identifying information about myself. In fact I’ve followed a path of Celtic spirituality for nearly twenty years. When I made contact with my birth mother through the intermediary a few years ago, she made mention of mental illness in the family, in my uncle’s case quite severe. Unfortunately that brief tidbit is all I know, and it concerns me greatly. Are my own issues with depression and anxiety related to this mystery family illness? What do I need to know for my kids’ sake? What about their kids, and theirs? Again I am left as the sole repository of this knowledge, with zero access to any information that might help. I think it’s cruel that sealed records and ineffective registries allow such enigmas to occur. We should not be left merely with vague knowledge of “mental illness in the family.” I need a diagnosis, dammit, some resources that tell me what remedies did or did not work for others of my bloodline.
I firmly believe adoption is unnatural. Motherhood is sacred, and we don’t know enough about it to go mucking it up with social constructs that emphasize the material wealth of adopters over the bonds of blood. What has been done to my children is wrong. They should not have to suffer because I was adopted. They deserve full access to their ancestry, and as their mother it’s my responsibility to see they get it.