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What does adoption mean to me?


What does adoption mean to me?


Each member of the adoption triad (adoptee, birth mother, or adoptive parent) will have their own answer to this question. Each individual will also have their own perspective, given the trajectory of their lives and the multiple variables of the people they came in contact with as well as their past and current environment. My own experience is shaped by my own international adoption as well as my observation of my sibling’s and close friend’s adoptions. This is compounded by my experience working as a counselor to mothers making an adoption plan. Adoption for me was a life event initiated by my birth mother’s decision as she felt she was not in a position to give me the life she wanted for me. That decision came out of an immense amount of love that I will never grasp, but also an amount of pain that I will never fully grasp either.

I have heard of people attributing adoption as “nothing but good” as they look at examples of the heroic love of birth mothers, or the encompassing love of adoptive parents, and the “better situations” that adoptees may find themselves in due to their adoption. I have also heard of people attributing adoption as “nothing but bad” as they look at birth mothers being pushed out of the adoption triad, adoptive parents choosing to dissolve their child’s adoption, or adoptees struggling with identity and attachment trauma and substance abuse as a result. While these may tell of specific personal tragedies and traumas that did happen and do matter, painting adoption with a broad brush of either all good or evil is not helpful either.

What then is adoption? Adoption, to me, is the existence of both beauty and pain. The yin and yang. Each one does not discount the other. For each person, it looks different and there might be different amounts of beauty and pain in each story. Regardless of the amount, they are both there. I wonder if instead of trying to convince each other of which one is more powerful or stronger or more convincing, we could acknowledge the presence of both and how validating that acknowledgement in each adoption could be crucial in the adoption triad’s well-being. This may be a new, uncomfortable, or unfamiliar way to view your adoption or the adoption of your child, but I encourage you to explore your feelings with this perspective. Finding an adoption-competent therapist, may be an important piece of this process if you are already in the adoption triad and need some additional support. Or, if you are a woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and are considering adoption, pursue options counseling with a therapist so you have the support and education needed to make this type of decision. It must be frightening to read about tragic stories of adoption and then confusing to see all the testimonies of incredible open and loving relationships between birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees. Parenting a child as a result of an unplanned pregnancy can hold its beauty and pain too; regardless of the final decision, it is important for you to have a safe and supportive space to consider all options so you can feel confident and secure in your decision. If you are already part of the adoption triad, your story matters and the beauty and pain are both valid.

by: Olivia Espinosa MSW, LCSW

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