Disturbing adoption

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Reading a newsletter, I came across the term displacement, which an adopted person used to describe the separation from her heritage. Here was another dis- word, used to describe the adoption experience, to accompany disempowerment and disenfranchised, terms used often by and about adopted persons, as well as their mothers and fathers.

It set me pondering. Are there other dis- words which apply to adoption and its after effects? Not surprisingly, given that the prefix dis- means ‘lack of’, ‘not’, or ‘apart’, I found many descriptors that fit.

Disgrace, disapproval, discrimination, disreputable and disdain can all be used to describe how a mother was treated by the community before and after the birth of her child. Those fathers who chose not to stand by the mother may be familiar with disingenuous, dishonourable and disown. Fathers who were excluded by others relate to being dismissed. Parents left with no option but to relinquish their child speak of being dispossessed, of having their desire to keep the child disregarded, and of feeling disillusioned with parenthood. There are mothers who tell of their consent for the child to be adopted being dispensed with, in the interests of a rapid disposal of the adoption. Those people whose reaction to the loss and grief caused by separation of parent and child is numbness, can relate to disengagement. Others use disarray, distraught or disabling to describe their emotional turmoil. Both adopted persons and the mother and the father may distrust intimacy with others, because getting close equates with the possibility of another disruptive rejection. And many adopted persons worry about appearing disloyal to their adoptive parents when they search to discover their heritage.

Plainly, adoption has caused much distress. It is tempting to disassociate ourselves from the practice, then, disarmingly, all those disconcerting dis- words could disappear.


This satirical appraisal of the impact of adoption separation draws upon the apt prefix dis-, which means ‘lack of’, ‘not’, or ‘apart’ … read on.