This is going to be a bit of a trip before I get to the good stuff I am counting. Please bear with me as I spew out some ugliness that feels like it is poisoning me before I get to what is worthy of counting. If you've read me any amount of time you know I try to keep it positive but there has been something just gnawing at me.
I read a book this week that has sat in my "to read" pile for a long time. After churning through it in a single night I wish I had never read it. It infuriated me. Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge would seem by its title to speak for any adoptee but let me assure you it does not. After the first chapter I wanted to fling the book in the fireplace but I decided that was not giving the author her full say and to be fair I had to finish the book. My opinion of her views did not improve one iota over the course of the book.
Ms. Eldridge asserts that every adoptee, from the moment of relinquishment by birthparents, even as newborns, is a profoundly brokenhearted individual in need of very careful handling as if we are the most fragile of souls. If we act out in defiant or destructive ways over the course of our lives it is because we have suffered such deep psychic trauma over the loss of our birthparents. If we are well-behaved and productive members of society it is because we are overcompensating and masking all this heart-searing pain hoping the world will stop rejecting us. Basically, every adoptee should be in lifelong therapy because there is no other way we could possibly be healthy individuals. If our adoptive parents have any smarts at all they will make sure that every time we misbehave they ask us if it is because we are missing our birthmothers and if we are behaving is it so she will come back. (Can I scream now at the absurdity of her sweeping generalization?)
To be fair, I accept that Ms. Eldridge is 20 years older than I am and in her day adoption was cloaked in much more secrecy. Families were advised to pretend there was no such thing as adoption, not to answer questions. I will say that any time it is handled with secrecy and carries a sense of shame that I believe a child picks up on that and yes problems can and often do arise. I know other adoptees who found out late in life about the "big secret." It understandably caused a tremendous amount of anger and confusion and damage. I truly grieve for those who have endured such deception. Just don't assume because your experience was negative and scarring that mine was too. I resent that very deeply. Don't pretend to speak for me. I think what angers me most is that all my life I've dealt with people who aren't adopted assuming that being adopted means I have this great trauma in my life so to have a fellow adoptee insist that I am damaged goods just makes me want to knock my head against the wall. The only credit I will give Ms. Eldridge is that she does encourage open communication between parents and children. I do believe that is critically important.
The truth is, not every adoptive family tries to hide the truth. Many of us have parents who very lovingly and gently gave us answers as we asked questions. As a very young child I can remember being scared that "growing in another lady's belly" meant someone else had some claim on me somehow and might be able to come take me away. When I was older I wanted to know why my birthmother didn't raise me herself. Of course there were other things we discussed over the course of a life time too. My mother always gave me gentle and honest answers that were respectful of my feelings and compassionate toward my birthmother. I always knew it was safe to ask any question. It was safe enough that my mother once told me about how when she was punished as a child she dreamed she must be adopted because no one would be so mean to their child. We laughed together when I told her since I knew I was adopted I used to imagine my birthmother was a princess in a castle ready to rescue me from this terribly mean woman who expected me to clean my own room. Boy, I sound irrevocably damaged don't I? Anyone have the number of a good therapist?
So if you've stuck with me this long, thanks. I am counting my birthmother who knew she could not provide what I needed as a child and made a very difficult decision in my best interest. And I am counting my mother who received me and was ready and able to provide all the love I needed, as well as the honesty in a naturally unfolding manner.