On reunion and mothers’ remorse.

This was a post in reply to the blog Adoption in the City.

My situation is not similar to domestic adoptees (I am an adoptee returned to his place of birth overseas) but I think that I might have some advice for getting through what is more and more an “impasse” that blocks any dialogue between mothers and their children.

So much of this discussion is wrapped up in the personal, and for obvious reasons. The pain of abandonment, relinquishment; the sense of rejection; the questions of “why”, etc. All of these emotions, when left to founder in the stasis of “not knowing” about one’s origins, at the very least can be “dealt with” in a controlled manner. I can box it all up and deal with it on my terms (or not at all).

The criticism you received of repeating the original offense is, to me, an acknowledgment of a change to this ability to “contain” the personal, emotional aspect of things. If I am constantly reminded of the original rejection, outside of my ability to control such a reminder, then I might as well be throwing salt into an open wound, or ripping out stitches.

There is a reason why many of us rarely examine our original papers, for example, or photographs, if we were old enough to be posed as part of a family. This is a normal self-defense mechanism in terms of emotional well-being. I call it my “iceberg”; I go near it, but not too near, and I also know how deep and unfathomable it is.

I think what is most troubling for me as an adoptee is not based in the personal and emotional, but in the economic and political. By this I mean to say that I do not bear ill will against my parents for whatever reason(s) they abandoned me. I am not angry at my adoptive parents. At the same time, I am angry at the fact that there was a societal and cultural differential between them that allowed the one to take the child of the other.

That either side might be comfortable with this, the economic and societal disparity between groups that allows one to not come to the aid of the other, but to take advantage of that class difference to their own benefit, makes me sick to my stomach. That a mother might not only be okay with this, but in fact aspire to it, reveals the adoption to be a double-abandonment: The child was given up to allow mother and adopters a leg-up on the class ladder. As an adoptee, I want nothing to do with this.

This was probably the main issue that did not allow conversation between my adoptive father and me on the subject. He never let go of his political views, even after I had come back, and started challenging them in no small way. An avowal from him of the politics and economics concerning adoption would most likely have made our relationship completely different. But any action here needed to come from him.

Along these lines, I have been in conversations with adoptive parents who have decided to move to a neighborhood far from their comfort zone, to be closer to the place the transracially adopted children temporarily in their care are from. This is a different situation, and it shows an effort at understanding the reason for the adoption, as well as attempting to right something that is admittedly wrong on all levels. It doesn’t fix anything, but I can respect someone risking their class status for the benefit of the children they are caring for.

And so if a mother chooses to maintain an aspired-to or actual class standing that is the same as the adopters of her child, then this to me is like a gobsmack full in the face; an exponentialization of the original criminal act. This is wanting to have one’s cake and eat it too.

I hear many mothers speaking of the “fact” of having relinquished, and I have utmost sympathy for the situation they were in, the weight of societal/cultural/familial pressure on them. I am not the one to cast judgment on anyone for decisions they have made, especially when living with that decision is often punishment enough. I also realize the eggshell walk they perform in hoping not to upset adopters, to whom the legal, religious, medical, social, and mediated systems all cater.

But it seems to me that if I realize a mistake I’ve made, especially one so life-changing or gut-wrenching, I am not going to care what the consequences of my actions are. By actions I mean activation, or activism. Why should mothers accept the status quo of the legal system? This is a class issue and a feminist issue; it is often a racial issue. Why do we accept such classism, misogyny, and racism? What does that say about us? How do we expect children to react to that? Respect that?

In the parable of the judgment of Solomon, the mother was determined to be the woman who was willing to keep her child alive by giving him up. The parable ends here in the minds of adopters. But the end of the parable has the child coming back to her; returned to her, the arrogance of the adoptive claim rejected. Justice does not prevail in the act of adoption until the child returns.

If you want to show your child that you care, then you need to be angry with those who took him from you. You need to be angry at a system that allowed that to take place. Perhaps you need to be angry with yourself. (At this point, I’ll ask everyone to spare me the lectures concerning “free will” and all that. We might as well say I have the “free will” to swim in the direction a maelstrom is turning in.)

Everything about this blog, this medium (the online realm), the mediation of the situation, all speak to a very particular class in a very particular language that doesn’t want to rock any boats. It’s time we have a revolution of mothers demanding their children back. Mothers in Guatemala are suing to repatriate their children. Why not join them? If mothers are serious about wanting a relationship with their children, frankly, I don’t see a middle ground. Rise up! Fight!

I’ve belabored this way too much; but this has been on my mind a lot lately. Primarily because I don’t like the rift between adoptees and their mothers. I don’t like the fact that those for whom there should be common cause are separated by the sheer emotional weight of what has been wrought. It seems to me a focus on the systemic injustice of what has happened might be a way around it.

If you want to maintain contact with your child, in my view, you have to fight for it. Literally.

About Daniel Drennan ElAwar

Adoptee, rematriated.
This entry was posted in Adoption resistance. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to On reunion and mothers’ remorse.

  1. barbthavis says:

    You wrote: And so if a mother chooses to maintain an aspired-to or actual class standing that is the same as the adopters of her child, then this to me is like a gobsmack full in the face; an exponentialization of the original criminal act. This is wanting to have one’s cake and eat it too.
    What do you mean by class standing? Are we to stay poor as in our youth? I am an activist against coerced adoption, which occurs 90% of the time in the US. But I don’t feel I owe it to my lost daughter, (now found). In fact said activism is something we seldom discuss. She was livid with me on a blog post I wrote (telling young mothers to fight for their children) so I quickly took my blog down. My love for her goes beyond my hope for reform in adoption. Obviously I am a weak person or they wouldn’t have been able to pry her out of my arms with their bullshit. But my activism does nothing to endear her to me so I do it on the down low.

    • When in anything I have written did I say I think everyone should be poor? I am talking about the equalization of class disparity that allows for the power differential behind adoption. Adoptees are not off the hook here; returning to Lebanon, I could very easily have remained within the class position afforded to me by my adoption. I chose not to, and in a similar way this goes against the “contract” of adoption, and I deal with the aftermath of that, which includes a certain ostracism, even from particular adoptee circles.

      Both sides need to acknowledge this differential. Adoptees are no less prone to wanting to climb the class ladder; this was the story of my whole life. How many adoptees express shame in terms of their origins? But to me this is not “of” them, as much as there is no shame “of” their forebears. There was a request for advice from someone who quite on the contrary, does not seem to be activated concerning this issue. I did not say this applies to all situations. And I pray in time your daughter will come to understand they reasons you do what you do. I, for one, am grateful to hear about your efforts.

  2. Brent Snavely says:

    >It seems to me a focus on the systemic injustice of what has happened might be a way around it.<

    "Critical Adoption Theory" might be a worthy approach, tackling the entire structure/framework as corrupt and corrupting of all who are directly or indirectly involved with what we call 'adoption'.

    • Thanks for the comment Brent. I prefer it when theory and praxis come together, and thus my constant reference to Franz Fanon, who compared the adopted child to the colonized mind. I actually find much critical theory to be in lockstep with the system it claims to critique….

  3. Brent Snavely says:

    “Praxi-doxy”? http://apihtawikosisan.com/2013/08/22/we-cant-get-anywhere-until-we-flip-the-narrative/
    …next year at this time, I will be “houseless” (not “homeless”) by choice …

  4. REMORSE…I Don’t have one ounce of remorse, what I do have is a RIGHTEOUS ANGER, that never sleeps, I like you, Daniel, for the life of me, cannot fathom ADOPTION. Its an act of unmitigated cruelty, across the world there is a CULTURAL DENIAL to the pain, suffering, grief, loss, that occurs with adoption, that loss of identity, culture, and family, is soul destroying. VALIANT WOMEN in Australia, have fought for decades, resulting on the 21st March this year the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, admitting to the Australian people, and apologising to ALL SEARED by adoption , she quotes:- We deplore the SHAMEFUL PRACTICES that denied you mothers, your FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITIES to LOVE and CARE for your children. You were not LEGALLY or SOCIALLY acknowledged as MOTHERS. To you, who were betrayed by a system that gave you NO CHOICE and subjected you to malpractice and mistreatment, you were forced to endure COERCION and BRUTALITY of practices, that were UNETHICAL, DISHONEST, and in many cases ILLEGAL, we apologise. To each of you who were adopted, who were led to believe your mother REJECTED you, and were denied the opportunity to grow up with your family community, culture, we say sorry. Where are they all today after decades of fighting to be heard, not much further forward, yes they had 2/3 successful Mental Health Conferences, but these mums, a good few of they died early due to there relentless fight for justice for them and their beloved children stolen in adoption (PLEASE GOGGLE, DIAN WELLFARE) Australia has acknowledged her, and her fight against adoption. Mothers/Fathers our taken sons and daughters across the world are fighting and lobbying for our truth and history to be told. Daniel, and all adoptee’s, THANK YOU, for the MASSIVE CONTRIBUTIONS you are making, I would need another page or two to enlighten you to what I have been up to this last decade, suffice to say, in my wee corner here in Scotland, solo though I seem to be, I have made GIANT STRIDES, and have taken MUCH FLACK, been booed and booed when I stood up at adoption review boards, and at after-adoption care seminar’s, I had the privilege of addressing the Scottish Parliament Education Committee, yet nothing concrete has become of all my endeavours, but like our forebear Robert the Bruce, the spider that strengthened him to KEEP TRYING, I soldier on, motivated by this one thought, I will fight till the last breath leaves my body,to abolish adoption to the annal’s of history, hoping with much hope, a GIANT, will don the mantle of Abraham Lincoln, and end adoption, so it will become history across the world.

  5. Thanks Marion! Keep fighting the good fight! God bless and keep you.

  6. Melynda says:

    Thank you for this insightful piece, Daniel. As always, you have left me with much to think about.

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