Posts Tagged ‘ late discovery adoptee ’
An adoptive dad (who wishes to remain anonymous) reveals how telling his son the truth about his adoption has changed their family dynamics for the better…
I have two adopted children: my daughter, now 18, was adopted at the age of ten, and I adopted my son, now 11, when he was just three years old.
My daughter knew her biological father and had some contact with him before I adopted her, but they never really enjoyed a close relationship. After I adopted my daughter, she decided to break contact with her biological father altogether, even though I never discouraged their relationship. I wanted to make sure that she knew she could have contact with him if she wanted to.
My son did not know he was adopted until recently, when we decided he was old enough to know the truth. I was extremely reluctant to tell him about his adoption at first because he and I had a very difficult relationship, and I had also heard about so many adoptees who found out late in life about their adoption and the pain this caused.
I guess one will never know for sure when it’s the perfect time to tell someone that he/she is adopted; my wife and I made our decision based on our son’s emotional maturity level and readiness to hear this sensitive information. We asked a close friend, who is a preacher and counselor, to facilitate the process for us, as we knew our son would need access to someone he could trust when this life-changing information was revealed to him.
We approached the process as a family, and included my adopted daughter to support our son and be there for him should he have any questions or concerns. Although it was difficult at first, we believe that we can build a better family structure without having to pretend that we are something we are not.
My wife and I both suspected that Nathan (name changed) knew I was not his biological father, but I don’t think he understood his adoption and the complexity of the situation. When the facilitator revealed the information to him, he was not surprised, but became very emotional. That he was not surprised confirmed that he suspected the truth, but the complexity of the situation made him emotional.
As we spoke, the facilitator continually checked that Nathan understood what we were trying to tell him by asking him for feedback and examples. One comment Nathan made was that he knew I loved him, because of what we do and share together and that if I didn’t love him as my child, I would not have to do what I was doing for him then.
As a psychologist, I appreciated the facilitator’s effort to continually “check-in” with Nathan during the session to ensure he was okay and reassure him of the love our family’s and my, as his adoptive father, love for him. Nathan cried a lot while we talked, not because of his adoption, but because his mother was very emotional and he was the focus of attention in a serious matter.
This session firstly made me feel that I can be a father without having to pretend that I’m someone I’m not: I could be Nathan’s adoptive father and no longer pretend to be his biological father. Some may wonder why this is so important, and it’s difficult to explain, but it was important for me as I don’t have any biological children. Although I wanted to, I have come to accept that I will never have any. Pretending that Nathan was my biological child constantly reminded me of the fact that I do not have biological children and that I was living a lie.
Also, pretending to be someone I wasn’t caused me to push the children away, as indirectly and subconsciously I blamed them for my not having biological children. However, by telling and living the truth of being their adoptive father, I can make peace with not having biological children and be the real father to my children that God intended me to be.
For Nathan, not much has changed; he does not blame anyone or feel unloved. His standing in our family remains the same and he still regards me as his only father. He has not asked about his biological father and we don’t think he will for a while yet, but we believe that when he does, he will be ready to understand more about this complex situation. For now, he knows that he is adopted, and that this doesn’t change our love for him – he is our son, regardless of who his biological father is.
Should he want more clarity and information on his biological father later in life, we will support his decision, as we did with our daughter. We will never prevent our children from contacting with their biological fathers if they choose to do so.
Unexpectedly, telling Nathan about his adoption has positively changed my relationship with my daughter. We communicate better, trust each other more and talk about things we never could before. I believe that although my daughter knew about her adoption, she also never realised how much she gained by having a “real” father who cares for and loves her, and how much having a father and mother who love each other has changed her life for the better.
What was discussed with Nathan was not a surprise to her, as she already knew about it, but I believe that what her and her brother’s adoption has meant to them has helped to change her previously negative and antagonistic attitude and behaviour.
For my wife, the biological mother of our children, this session has helped her to realise what I was going through as a “secret” adoptive father. Her relationship with Nathan has also changed for the better – previously she always tried to protect him from the truth, to the extent of becoming over-protective, which hampered Nathan’s emotional growth as he was overly dependent on his mother.
I firmly believe that the truth has set us all free from pretending and living a lie. Now we are free to be who we really are and to build on a family unit regardless of the past. Finally, we can start building a family based on truth and trust. Because it’s not the blood in your veins, but the love in your heart that makes you a family.
Kirsty Simmonds writes: “I absolutely loved your book; I could not put it down. It is an amazing and courageous walk you have lead, Aurette. You dealt with it so frankly and honestly and have faced your absolute worst fears! You have come through victorious – I was inspired, moved to tears and in joy for you – so proud of how you pushed through and refused to accept nothing less than the absolute truth, even if it meant shattering any “feel-good illusions”.
I was truly affected, moved and impressed. You truly are an inspiration – you have lived as you speak and abide in the Word. Your life bears such great testimony to how necessary and how wonderful faith in God is an can keep us through our darkest trials. Without Him we will be truly lost to the darkness and despair. Thank you for being so brave to write this all down and share your unique life story. So many will be saved beacuse of your faith and ability to put into words what so few would have been able to.
I am often asked whether, as a late discovery adoptee, I experience any of the issues other adoptees – who always have known about their adoption – have to contend with while growing up.
The short answer is yes.
As a child I felt surrounded by people who I believed didn’t like me – from aunts, uncles and cousins, to friends at school. Although I excelled academically and at some sports, I never felt good at what I did, or that my achievements were good enough to ensure approval, which I was constantly trying to earn.
I was extremely afraid of rejection, and would unconsciously go about sabotaging relationships with my friends and family. I reasoned: “I know you are going to leave me eventually, so I will push you away so that I don’t get hurt.”
When the person did eventually leave because I had pushed them away one time too many, my response would be: “See, I knew you would leave.” I was completely unaware that it was me who was causing the very thing I was most afraid of.
Closely related to my fears of rejection were issues of distrust – especially of the feminine. I could never understand why I always felt more comfortable around men than women. I have always had more male friends than female. One of my closest friends at high school, and at the university I studied, was a boy.
When I applied for my first job I was asked whether I got on better with men or women. Immediately I answered men. The interviewer asked why. “I don’t know,” I replied. “I just don’t trust women. They have a hidden agenda.” But I could not explain what this hidden agenda was.
When my husband and I started dating he noted that I always seemed to be “hanging out with the guys”.
“They’re just my friends,” I responded. “I have more male friends than female. I don’t know why, I simply prefer it that way.”
I have since learned that because of the rejection/abandonment experienced at birth, adoptees often view women as abandoners – people who cannot be trusted. Generally, we feel unaccepted by girls or women or uncomfortable around them. While adoptees may have one best friend of the same sex as themselves, for most of us the rest of our friends tend to be boys or men.
Then there is that little matter of control. I am a control freak. I have always been one. I can even be manipulative if I want to, owing to my insatiable need to be in control at all times. To not be in control leaves me feeling extremely anxious, and the less in control I feel the more anxious I become, until eventually I feel completely overwhelmed. Then I break down, have a good cry on my husband’s ever-present shoulder, and feel better.
Low self-esteem, coupled with guilt is another issue I have had to contend with all my life. Thankfully, I now believe I know the root of all this emotional baggage.
From the first chapter, it was as if Nancy had written her book about me. I could relate to almost every aspect she addressed. All the emotional issues I experienced before knowing about my adoption and could not explain, suddenly made perfect sense.
Nancy is a registered clinical psychologist and the mother of an adoptive daughter. In her book, she explains how, no matter how much love she gave her daughter, the child continued to push her away and act out. In an effort to understand her daughter, Nancy wrote her doctoral thesis on adoptees. Her research culminated in the identification of what she calls the primal wound.
According to Nancy, this wound is formed immediately after birth when a baby is not placed in the arms of their birth mother, but given to a complete stranger. After having gone through the trauma of birth, all the baby wants is to the comfort of the woman in whose womb they have spent the last nine months.
Research shows that during this time they have come to know the woman who carried them so well that they can even identify her by smell. Thus when they are placed in the arms of a stranger, they experience no sense of safety, wellbeing and comfort, but rather intense abandonment. What’s more – they are expected to bond with this strange person, but how is that possible when they are yearning for their birth mother?
These intense emotions of abandonment, rejection, neglect and betrayal create an emotional wound so primal, Nancy says, that it is indelibly etched on the child’s sub-conscious memory. These fears never leave the child.
Consequently, most adoptees, regardless of when they learn of their adoption, grow up with issues of rejection, trust, intimacy and loyalty, together with guilt and shame, power and control and identity.
I firmly believe that it doesn’t matter at what age you find out about your adoption – the emotional impact of being separated from your birth-mother begins on the day of separation and is profoundly and permanently life-changing.
My belief is based on my personal experience and confirmed by Nancy Verrier’s research.
Thanks to my Christian faith, however, and a wonderful support system, I have been able to confront and deal with these issues. I have experienced considerable healing, but I have also come to accept that I am a work-in-progress, and will always be on a lifelong journey of healing.
The story of the discovery of my secret, closed adoption is intensely personal and brutally honest. But it's also a journey of healing, forgiveness and reconciliation.
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