Adoption is a foreign country ...

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    “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there” is the well known opening line from L P Hartley’s book The Go-Between, where Leo— the main character as an elderly man—reflects, while reading a childhood diary, on a secret, tragic event, that left him with deep psychological scars.

    Living within the world of closed adoption is akin to living in a foreign country where things are done differently. You arrive a stranger to your own life … different … without any sense of who you are or where you fit in, and this sense of alienation remains with you for the rest of your life … a refugee in your own home … a citizen without full rights … an outsider always looking in.

    Often legislators, social workers, adoptive parents, non-adoptive siblings, partners and the generally curious don’t get this … the substitution of one set of parents with another shortly after birth through the legal instrument of adoption, may well ensure ownership and transfer of full parental responsibility. The process, however, enacts a social amputation for the child and notwithstanding the legal transfer and intention to permanently extinguish the child’s original identity, family and heritage out of their lives, these actions cannot eradicate nature, our DNA is indivisible—the markers of our first mothers and families silently remain. The substitution too, comes with lasting consequences, as the legalities do not recognise, or remove, the trauma and pain of the original separation and first significant loss. Adopted people not only have to live with this loss, they have to find a way to make sense of it, often across the full span of their lives. Frequently we do so in isolation, within a secret, solitary and lonely space.

    As fellow adoptee A M Holmes writes in her autobiography, The Mistress’s Daughter, “to be adopted is to be adapted, to be amputated and sewn back together again. Whether or not you regain full function, there will always be scar tissue.”

     

    Adopted people not only have to live with this loss, they have to find a way to make sense of it, often across the full span of their lives.