While I would prefer not to dox myself, I am UK based, I think this is pertinent information as so much adoption literature is written in the context of US adoptees. From what I have read, the US has a bit of a troubled past with adoption, with young women forced into adoption and the mistreatment of those babies. I am unsure if things were like this in the UK.
Anyway, moving on to my adoption. I am in my early forties, and I was adopted at birth in the early 80’s.
My birth mother’s circumstances
My birth mother was 14 years old when she had me.
From what she has told me, she has had quite a traumatic childhood, her mother was a neglectful alcoholic, and she had three younger siblings. Her father was lovely, but with the failure of his marriage, he was not able to be the supportive father she needed.
As the family fell apart, she took on a parental role at the age of 13. The lack of love and attention from her parents meant she looked for it elsewhere, and this appears to be an issue that continued for all her life.
As a 14 year old looking for love, she met her first boyfriend, an 18 year old. She claims the first time they had sex was when she got pregnant.
Being the 80s, getting a pregnancy test wasn’t as easy, and many of the young women she knew would get backstreet abortions. At her age, she would not qualify for support from the state and her family was not able to support her. So, at 12 weeks, she booked herself into a Catholic convent and spent 6 months there until she gave birth, none of her friends knew, just her parents.
She gave birth without hospital intervention. One of the sisters had to carry out an episiotomy making it possible for her to give birth.
After just five days with me, the social worker took me away and gave me to my adoptive parents.
She then returned from the convent and had to internalize her grief as no one knew.
She says she thought about me every day for 35+ years and celebrated all my birthdays with her friends. She claims this heartache had a massive bearing on her outlook towards life and lifestyle.
My adoptive parents
My adoptive parents were in their early 30s which I think is quite old for parents back then, they were well-educated, financially secure and loving people.
My mum couldn’t have children and had multiple miscarriages, having a child was all she ever wanted. She had grown up with one sibling, and her own mother was not the most loving of people, she wasn’t bad, but from a generation where children should be seen, not heard. I think my mum decided to be everything that her mother wasn’t. Being an adopted only child inevitably meant I was everything to her, and her love for me and mollycoddling was quite overwhelming.
My dad was an only child who had sadly been estranged from his own parents. He was a quiet introverted man who was very stoic and exceptionally intelligent. In recent conversations with family friends, I think my dad may have been autistic himself.
My mum stayed at home while my dad provided for the family. We were not very rich, but he had attended a private school through a scholarship and wanted the best education possible for me, he paid to send me to the same school.
I have a very bad memory of the past, and I can’t really remember much before the age of 12.
My memories also lack any emotion to them. I know things happened, but I feel nothing about events of the past.
Unfortunately, this means that remembering positive things about my parents is not easy. I know they loved me, and I loved them, but from what I can remember, I don’t think we were ever close.
Looking back on what I do remember, I was just never able to connect with them. My mum was too emotional, and her love for me was overbearing. My dad tried to connect with me through sports, but I hated sports. I was more interested in computers.
I was a shy child, and I didn’t really have any friends, and the lack of siblings meant I spent quite a lot of time by myself.
I was friends with the neighbour’s kids, but they were 5 and 9 years older than me, so I was viewed more like a little brother. Looking back in hindsight, this wasn’t the healthiest of relationships, nobody did anything wrong to me, but I think I adopted an adult-like personality and didn’t really learn about emotions in the same way children do when they play with each other. I just contained all my emotions and never really showed them. This became increasingly problematic over the years.
My parents didn’t really force me into doing anything like other parents might. I was forced to learn any musical instruments, I didn’t do scouts or any other clubs. To some extent, I liked the fact that my parents were not overly demanding, but in hindsight, if I had been forced into social situations with kids my own age, I may not have experienced the problems I have.
I don’t resent my parents for this, I know they thought they were doing the best for me, and if we assume my dad was autistic, it perhaps makes more sense why he was happy for me not to be involved in extracurricular groups.
Finding out I was adopted
I don’t remember when my parents told me I was adopted. I think they told me as soon as I was able to understand.
To the best of my knowledge, I never felt the desire to want to connect with my birth parents. As far as I was concerned, the people that raised me were my parents.
I know for a fact that in later years, I showed no interest in my birth parents. It caused frustration for my partner because she was interested in who they might be.
When my birth mother contacted me via an intermediary, I ignored it for a while. It was a problem I couldn’t face dealing with at the time. I did eventually reply, I felt like it would be cruel to ignore her and make her wonder if I was alive or not.
Relinquishment Trauma / Adoption Trauma
The above doesn’t really explore my problems too much, but my problems because increasingly bad over the years.
In all my years of depression, I never associated my problems with adoption. Even when I started therapy, I was adamant that my problems didn’t stem from being adopted.
However, I recently became aware of the concept of relinquishment trauma and that there is growing evidence that our experiences in utero (during pregnancy) and the first 8 weeks of life have significant effects on later mental health / emotional well-being.
Adoption trauma can manifest as developmental trauma, which is usually diagnosed as CPTSD in adults, and there is a lot of overlap with ADHD and ASD.
When I first read about this idea of adoption trauma, it felt like pseudo-psychology, and it was hard to filter out literature related to the trauma experienced by older adoptees and those adopted at birth.
It seems to be a subject area that has not been studied extensively, with few respectable studies looking into the problem. A significant amount of information is anecdotal experience.
What I can say is that I experience many of the issues that adoptees have and that are associated with adoption trauma. My difficulty bonding with my parents and people in general. The emotional dysregulation and dissociation. The masking, hiding my true self from people. The self-abuse to manage the confusing emotions and possibly because I feel like I should be punished. It also helps explain why the failure of my reunion caused so much damage, and months later, I am still dealing with the issues associated with it.