Posts Tagged ‘ rejection ’

No, LDAs are not exempt from adoption issues

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.

One of the first books I read after finding out about my adoption was Nancy Verrier’s The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child.

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.

Letter to my ‘Prince of Wales’

Hello Rob

I am glad I am able to address you by your name. It’s about all my birth-mother knew about you; that and the fact that you were a Welsh naval cadet (when I heard you were from Wales there was a fleeting moment when I wondered whether you were the Prince of Wales). She also knew your surname, of course, but wasn’t sure of the spelling. She said she couldn’t remember the name of your ship that docked in Durban‘s harbour around September 1963. It had to have been then because that’s when the two of you conceived me.

After you found out she was pregnant you left, and she never saw you again. Which suited her as she didn’t want anything from you anyway. Not even financial support, although legally she was entitled to it. But that would’ve required her to name you on my birth certificate and she refused to do that. Unfortunately, naming the father of one’s illegitimate child wasn’t a legal requirement in those days.

I wish it had been. Because then I would have been able to conduct a state-assisted search for you, officially request a DNA test and finally fill in the missing piece of my life puzzle. I know nothing stops me from initiating my own private search , but for some reason I am hesitant to do that, although I think about it often. Almost every day, in fact.

Mostly, I wonder what you look like and whether I resemble you at all. And I wonder what personality traits, if any, I have inherited from you. When I was younger I wanted to join the Navy as a diver (yes, it’s true), until I found out that women weren’t allowed on ships but only permitted to do office administration work, so I discarded the idea immediately. Today I wonder whether there is any connection between you being a naval cadet and me wanting to join the Navy. But maybe that’s just me indulging in fantasy.

I wonder other things about you too. Like whether you ever think about the child you conceived all those years ago. Do you wonder whether you have a son or a daughter and whether my mother kept me? Would you be pleased to know that you have a daughter? And would you like to meet me? Would you like what you see?

Would I like what I see were I to meet you? I cannot help but have my doubts about someone who gets a girl pregnant and then leaves as soon as he is told about it. But, like my mother, you were young then, and not ready for the responsibilities that go with raising a child, so I guess I can forgive you for that.

The question is, are you still the same today? If you had the opportunity, would you change anything? If you had stuck around for my birth and perhaps laid eyes on me even for a few seconds, would you have changed your mind about not wanting to have anything to do with me?

I like to think of you as someone who, as a young man, had an adventurous spirit (like me) which led him to visit foreign countries. One of these was South Africa, where I happened. Of course, the thought has crossed my mind more than once that you may have had a girlfriend in every port and I may be only one of numerous illegitimate children.

But, as most young and irresponsible adventurous types do, you matured with age and went on to enjoy an illustrious career in the Royal Navy. Eventually you married, had children and now live quietly as a retired naval officer somewhere in the Welsh countryside where, on occasion, you allow yourself to reminisce on the days of your youth, when you stole young women’s hearts and indulged in all sorts of mischievous deeds for which sailors are so notorious.

Today I imagine you as a witty, lovable old rascal, who still has a keen sense of fun. Someone with a limitless number of thrilling stories to tell of his days at sea in the Royal Navy, but who also harbours a little sadness and regret behind his twinkling eyes. And I like to think that the sadness is for me – the child you never knew but dearly wished you had.

This letter is also featured on the blog 100 letters to you.

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If my father had seen me, what would he have done?

So I’ve been following this TV soapie (we all have our weaknesses, and this is mine). In it, a woman (let’s call her Jane) has a relationship with a man (Dick) and falls pregnant. After much soul searching she decides to keep the baby, even though Dick  doesn’t want her to, and even offers to pay for an abortion. 

Enter a good friend of Jane’s (who, in true soapie style, is also secretly in love with her). He (Tom) not only offers to marry Jane, but also publicly accept responsibility for fathering her baby. He also negotiates an agreement with Dick to adopt the baby. So far, so good.

Until the baby is born. It’s a girl. Dick goes out of his way to avoid visiting mother and baby in hospital, but then something comes up and he has no choice but to go. While there he gets to see his child and even hold her for a few minutes while Jane takes a call on her mobile. Father and daughter share a bonding moment.

Later, Tom presents Dick with the adoption forms, but is taken aback when Dick asks for more time before signing them. Reluctantly, however, he agrees. While perusing the forms Dick reads the following line: “the parent shall relinquish all rights to the child”. A light goes on. He realises that he cannot sign away all rights to his daughter. While Jane was pregnant with her he was able to convince himself that she was an abstract entity. But since holding her in his arms, everything has changed. He finally decides not to sign the adoption papers.

Watching all this unfold on my television set I felt my chest slowly begin to constrict until eventually I had to rub it in an attempt to ease the tightness. It’s what usually happens when an adoption issue touches me on a personal level.

When my birth mother told my biological father she was pregnant with me, he left her. She never saw him again.

I often wonder whether he ever wonders what happened to the girl he got pregnant back in ’63. Does he wonder whether she had the baby? Whether it was a boy or a girl? Or did he forget about the whole episode, as my birth mother told me he probably did? I have asked several men if they would be able to forget about an unplanned pregnancy they had been party to and the answer is always an unequivocal no.

Back then it was not uncommon for men not to want to face responsibility for an unplanned pregnancy. South African birth mothers were not legally required to name the father of their baby, nor was the father’s legal consent required, as it is today, for the baby to be given up for adoption.

But I can’t help wondering… If my father had stuck around while my birth mother was pregnant and then visited the hospital where I was born – would the sight of me have caused him change his mind?

Would he have wanted to know me, perhaps even to keep me?

Would he have wanted his name on my birth certificate?

Or would he have decided to walk away anyway?

Misunderstood and reviled

The publication of an extract of Someone’s Daughter on Parent24.com has caused quite a stir, judging by some of the comments posted by readers.

Even though the positive comments far outweigh the negative, when I first read the latter I was very hurt by their intensity.

“You are a terrible disgrace”, wrote someone who signed their name as ‘?’, accusing me of seeing a lucrative story to write and shame my parents about. “I think you are selfish and saw a story to write about that would make people feel pity on you,” he/she delcared.

“Pull yourself together”, stated ‘casino’, while ‘turbo_superboss’ wanted to know why I was “so ungrateful and angry” at my mother for not telling me.

Of course, I know their comments are based on ignorance. None of these people have read my book and are judging me without knowing all the facts. Yet I still felt hurt, misunderstood and unjustly criticised.

At the same time I was aware of a sense of familiarity to all of this. Then it struck me. Jesus experienced the same unfair judgement and misunderstanding while He was on earth (Luke 17:25) and especially when He hung on the cross. Although He had every opportunity to defend Himself, and with God’s power in Him was more than capable of doing so, He chose not to.

Like my critics, Jesus’ attackers could not (or would not?) see the full picture and consequently, completely misunderstood His message.  Yet, despite all of this, Jesus asked His Father to forgive them for their ignorance just before He died. What compassion, what mercy!

Jesus also warned Christians that they would encounter persecution for His name’s sake: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).

The lesson for me is clear. I should expect criticism, but I must show compassion and forgiveness, just as Jesus did. I may have finished writing Someone’s Daughter, but God’s teaching and healing continues. What a blessing.

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