Saturday

In the eye of the beholder

I came across a blog yesterday that has a post entitled Adoptee Cliques and it got me thinking about how this group phenomena occurs. I think I know what some of the perceived reasons or impetus for the dissension are, I just have no clue how to resolve or dispel them. Perhaps it's not possible to put an end to online adoptee cliques.

I'll start out by mentioning some adoption scenarios I've had personal experience with and a few I know of by reading around the various online resources that exists. By no means will I or could I list them all. There are far, far too many and really, every single situation is unique to the individuals involved which in turn affects the experience of the adopted person.

  1. Domestic, closed, infant adoption. (That's me)
  2. Domestic, closed, infant adoption to a good family (That's me too!)
  3. Domestic, closed, infant to a crap family
  4. Domestic, closed adoption of an infant willingly given up. (Me again)
  5. Domestic, closed adoption of an infant who was coerced or abducted from it's parents(s)
  6. Replace domestic with international on the first 5
  7. Add transracial to the first 5
  8. Subtract closed from the first 5 but add toddler/older child from foster care
  9. Take 1 but subtract domestic, add international, and divide by life and death medical circumstance
  10. Take all 10 and multiply by 20 years ago. Then by 30. By 40. 50.60.70.80.90
There are adopted people who feel abandoned, there are those who do not.
Some that feel like they never fit in to their adoptive families, some that feel they did.
Some believe they suffer from a primal wound, some who feel they don't.
Some were born in different countries than they were raised, some who were not.
Some who feel the need to search, some who do not.
Some search and are embraced, some search and are rejected.
Some who have always known they were adopted, some found out as adults.
Some who feel being adopted was a negative in their life but still love their parents.
Some who can't stand their parents but don't feel being adopted was a negative.
Some who feel their god was instrumental, some who don't think their god had anything to do with it.
Some feel relieved to have been adopted, some feel it was completely unnecessary.
Some who feel like their adoptive family is their "real" family, some who do not.

There are many, many more ways adopted people feel and possible reasons for why they feel that way. I could take much of what I've already listed and interchange them and it would apply to someone.

I personally think we do each other a disservice by dismissing each other's realities. I understand it's human nature to gravitate toward those who are of like minds. It's comforting, it assures us we're "ok", normal.

How can we get to a place where we don't mock one another? Gang up on each other? Present a place where people who are adopted can truly say how they feel about being adopted without fear of being rejected or attacked by other adopted people?

Some may think I am the kind of person who is annoyingly eternally optimistic. The "turn that frown upside down" type, and they'd be mostly right. Except for in the adoptee vs adoptee ring. I am not optimistic at all.

I think there is innate desire to categorize ourselves into good and bad adoptees. I think we've been told they exist, and deep down we want them to.  Don't get me wrong, I believe a person can be in a situation where they want to be or are expected to be a "good" adoptee, that if they aren't they won't be as loved or accepted. They must appear grateful, or else. I also believe that an adopted person can honestly and freely be totally fine with it, be almost fine with it, kinda ok with it, have fleeting moments where it's not the worst thing in the world, or just downright think it's the worst thing that could have happened.

Good and bad is in the eye of the beholder. Don't you dare slip from grace.

42 comments:

  1. lol why is this tagged with housewives whahaa.... I think the hard thing is that for those of us who as adoptees want to prevent the pain we feel like we've experienced it's really hard to hear someone else say they had a good experience because then that promotes more adoptions happening and what if some of those adoptions result in the kind of pain some of us feel like we've experienced?

    Then again, what if advocates against adoption reduce adoption but the kids who stay with their first moms are less happy than they would be adopted?

    It kind of sucks that something as simple and honest as sharing your experience might sway people toward or against adoption. Which is why it's really hard to talk about because there is so much more meaning in how one person feels about adoption than just that.

    It influences the direction we go with reform initiatives and what experts should advise pregnant women considering adoption.

    If they did some really good studies and repeated those and could demostrate that adoptees were definitely better off than kids of single parents then that WOULD add pressure to women considering adoption to place.

    My beef is that EVEN IF ADOPTEES DO BETTER THAN CHILDREN OF SINGLE PARENTS, we should also research what is going wrong with single parent homes and how we can intervene effectively to allow that environment to be more comparable to an adoptive home.

    It's entirely possible that this desire is for the first parents more than the adoptees. However, it not only stems from my experience of losing my daughter, but also from my experience of watching my first mothers pain.

    I don't want my life to cause such pain.

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  2. "lol why is this tagged with housewives whahaa"

    Hah! Pfft @ me. Thanks for the heads up lol

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  3. "Don't you dare slip from grace."

    I am not quite sure what you mean by this.

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  4. I mean, ms marginalia, whether you're perceived to be good or bad, it can be intimidating, frightening, place altering or whatever one wants to call it, to stray from your role. You run the risk of alienation from your clique, your group, your support.

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  5. So strange to me that people feel the need to seek out other adoptees at all, much less adoptees with the same exact experience. I enjoy reading your blog. I'm glad I came across it, but it never occurred to me to seek out blogs that talk about adoption.

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  6. Where are all these adoptess dismissing other adoptees realities though? The people that generally dismiss adoptees realities are adoptive parents.

    I am absoloutly a "bad" adoptee. Angry, bitter, ungrateful, totally anti adoption, but I don't think that all adoptees have to be like that and I have plenty of adoptee friend who are not like that and who accept me as I am.

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  7. Part of it is I think that we're all in different places on our journey, all different ages and of different styles of adoption.We have in common the trauma of being removed from our mother.Some adoptees are at the beginning of their journey and haven't yet been able to leave their happy adoptee role so carefully played out for so long.It can take a long time to even recognise the trauma of abuse, let alone be able to speak about it or articulate it when it happened before we had words mostly.
    We need to try to have patience and not be so judgemental on our fellow adoptees.

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  8. Sustainablefamilies - I do feel a certain level of self-imposed pressure when I talk about having really good parents because I see how it can be taken as sunshine and roses to the newbies plus it makes me feel bad for those who had horrible parents - but I also talk about how I felt / feel a deep loss so while I fit most of the same numbers above that Campbell does - we are completely different on the spectrum of loss...plus I am a bit more vocal when something upsets me...

    I am a realist though and don't apply my feelings as the only feelings that go with being an adoptee...we all have our own story.

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  9. Broadsnark, you aren't as glad to have come across my blog as I was to come across yours when I did. I had just been experiencing an online lambasting of sorts and was much relieved to read your words "As someone who was adopted, I can tell you unequivocally that blood does not mean a thing."

    I've since come to learn that to some it really means everything.

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  10. "I do feel a certain level of self-imposed pressure when I talk about having really good parents because I see how it can be taken as sunshine and roses to the newbies plus it makes me feel bad for those who had horrible parents - but I also talk about how I felt / feel a deep loss so while I fit most of the same numbers above that Campbell does - we are completely different on the spectrum of loss...plus I am a bit more vocal when something upsets me."

    I am very much like you, The adopted ones. I am not very much like Campbell except in terms of demographics (domestic, closed adoption of a white infant, willingly placed in the '60s).

    I have found it good to see where other adoptees are in their journeys, as Von said, and I spend a great deal of time over at Adult Adoptees Advocating for Change in conversation with adoptees and first mothers.

    Some adoptees seem to like having an adoption community (I certainly do) and others, like Snark, not so much.

    I do agree that the energy spent on infighting about what adoption is and how adoptees feel could be better directed at changing the laws that deny us our OBCs--at least here in the US.

    Campbell, I asked the question I did above because it seemed like an odd follow on to good and bad being in the eye of the beholder. I took it to mean that *you* were situating yourself as the arbiter.

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  11. Von, trauma from being adopted is not something we all have in common. Some are traumatized, some are not.

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  12. Jay, I just may have to add this to my next Says Who post of things I've read and think are great.

    "I am absoloutly a "bad" adoptee. Angry, bitter, ungrateful, totally anti adoption, but I don't think that all adoptees have to be like that and I have plenty of adoptee friend who are not like that and who accept me as I am."

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  13. Exactly why i hate "studies"...what is the point of proving adopted people have higher IQ's or whatever.

    One thing y'all all have in common [goes for anyone raised by stealth step pts] is that you are at the mercy of whoever raised you - for you to know who you are related to. Parent's (all variation) have legal authority to dictate what information reaches the impressionable mind's of their children;that authority should not outlast childhood. with parents of adoptees it does

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  14. Hmmm Marilynn, I see what you're getting at but in my case, and I'm sure others, it's the government who dictated what information I was able to get as an adult.

    My parents that raised me were the ones who told me the names, all 4 of them, I was given at birth.

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  15. Just as there are adoptee cliques with each group claiming "THE Truth", the same phenomenon exists among birth/first/natural/original/biological mothers, (and any other name one prefers,which often declares one's allegiance to a particular group).

    None of this is helpful or productive to anyone, and cliques within cliques fight fierce ideological battles over issues equivalent to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, like what it is correct to call one's self or which era of surrender had it worse.

    I firmly agree, every adoption is different, every adoptee and birthmother have their own story to tell, from whatever era, ethnic group, amount of choice or happiness in placement. Nobody's personal story or belief about their own life or adoption invalidates or threatens anyone else's. We do not need cliques; the momentary comfort and solidarity they provide are far outweighed by the insularity and hostility to "the other" they engender.

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  16. Re: Maryanne's last paragraph:

    True in theory, but we all have our own biases ad stereotypes. Kind of like how it's often said that every adoptee's experience is their own (of course), but in practise, it's the ones who say they are grateful for adoption who get "encouraged" the most, while the ones expressing grief and anger are labeled "bitter." :P

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  17. Mei Ling, I think it is all a matter of where adoptees are expressing their opinions about being adopted. The cliques Campbell was talking about are within adoption reform. Yes, some adoptive parents and some groups that promote adoption routinely label adoptees who talk about their grief and anger as "bitter". So do some in the general public.

    But that accusation is pulled out way too often within adoption reform groups whenever anyone disagrees with some adoptees, and some birthmothers about anything. Disagreeing about theories or mode of expression is not labeling anyone "bitter" or dismissing real pain and grief, yet it is often portrayed as such on some forums. I do not see any adoption reform blogs that encourage or prefer "grateful" adoptees, and yet some adoptees actually are grateful, just as some are angry with good reason, and some are bitter, often with good reason as well. There should not be a "correct" way to feel as an adoptee, or a mother who surrendered. Yet in many instances within the adoption reform community, there is a definite bias about how one should feel, and how that should be expressed to agree with the prevailing sentiment.

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  18. ". . .but in practise, it's the ones who say they are grateful for adoption who get "encouraged" the most, while the ones expressing grief and anger are labeled 'bitter.'"

    Doesn't that cut both ways?

    What seems to happen is that like *encourages* like and like *labels* unlike - eg, whether it's "angry and bitter" or "unicorns, lollipops, and fog", it's still a label.

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  19. I have seen you around the online adoption community and wow, I cannot believe I have not stumbled upon your blog until now.

    I find this blog post to be something I have been thinking about for quite some time. I just never really felt I could voice it because like you mentioned, you don't want to minimize the adoptees who had a harder time than others or see adoption as 'bad'.

    Like everything in life people in certain life groups are going to have a wide array of experiences and I wholeheartedly believe that each adoptee has their own story and their own way of looking at adoption good or bad.

    I used to HATE adoption. I don't so much anymore. I don't think it is perfect, as nothing is. I just think that for some it is good and some bad. People educating others is a good way to bring to light the bad parts and hopefully it will help.

    I have had a hard time lately remembering that every adoptee deserves to have their story validated. Even some who have a very different opinion of adoption than I.

    Loved this post, thanks!

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  20. So I guess Jay was so worried about not knowing where to find adoptees dismissing other adoptees it decided to just go ahead and do it itself. What about this part Jay? "but I don't think that all adoptees have to be like that and I have plenty of adoptee friend who are not like that and who accept me as I am."

    To quote Jay elsewhere today: "And Campbell is over there sucking adoptive parent dick. typical."

    Go check out the rest if you like. You can even catch another poor, innocent, dismissed, and attacked adoptee chiming in to reply with, "OMG, Jay, you made me spit out my coffee! I couldn't agree more.

    http://realdaughter.blogspot.com/2011/01/oh-puh-lease.html

    Classy...another "C" word

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  21. "Suck your own dick" is my response to

    http://realdaughter.blogspot.com/2011/01/oh-puh-lease.html

    It might be a nice change from your thumb.

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  22. Anon wrote:"What seems to happen is that like *encourages* like and like *labels* unlike - eg, whether it's "angry and bitter" or "unicorns, lollipops, and fog", it's still a label. "

    Yup. It comes from both sides. You forgot "rainbow farters" though!:-) Like encourages like, and often goes on a witch hunt against unlike, sometimes in very vulgar and abusive terms like those Campbell has quoted, that come from a public adoptee blog, not someone's private snarky email, not an adoptive parent blog, and are directed against Campbell, another adoptee.

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  23. Yep, really really classy. And witty.
    All that ego-enhancing stuff.
    Really.

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  24. Thanks for commenting ritehere.

    I've been reading your blog for some time now. Actually, I sent you an email a few months back as I can't seem to comment there without a password.

    I read your reply on O Solo Mama's recent post on open adoption. I thought it was very good.

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  25. Maryanne,

    You said to Mei in your second paragraph "I do not see any adoption reform blogs that encourage or prefer "grateful" adoptees, and yet some adoptees actually are grateful, just as some are angry with good reason, and some are bitter, often with good reason as well. There should not be a "correct" way to feel as an adoptee, or a mother who surrendered. Yet in many instances within the adoption reform community, there is a definite bias about how one should feel, and how that should be expressed to agree with the prevailing sentiment."

    You can be grateful, angry, bitter, happy, sad, cannot imagine life differently and still wish you never needed to be adopted...it is NOT one category or the other - it can be all...speaking as an adoptee.

    I am accepted simply because I do not believe feelings about being an adoptee is only ever one side of the coin or the other...usually it seems to be a combination of all those feelings wrapped up into one package - different percentages - still one package. Having empathy and allowing each their own percentage is the key.

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  26. "I am accepted simply because I do not believe feelings about being an adoptee is only ever one side of the coin or the other..."

    Accepted by whom? I don't understand what you're saying here.

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  27. Campbell - pretty much accepted as I am by adoptees across the spectrum of feelings. I have never had anyone tell me I am not welcome which is what Maryanne was saying at the start of the paragraph when she said "I do not see any adoption reform blogs that encourage or prefer "grateful" adoptees,".

    I just accept that others will have had a different experience than what I had, just like mine is different that either of my siblings etc - does not mean my feelings are the only feelings possible or that others do not have the right to their feelings.

    I'm rambling but everyone has to be accepted for who they are - not what side they are on or aren't on. I believe we can all live in peace if we want to.

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  28. Ahh..ok thanks for answering The adopted ones. I'm glad you feel accepted.

    I believe in accepting people for who they are also. I too accept that others will have had a different experience than what I had.

    I'm glad you've never had anyone tell you you're not welcome.

    I wonder though, have you ever had anyone say publicly you suck adoptive parent dick?

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  29. No Campbell I haven't and that would not be a nice experience to have. I am sorry you have experienced it. None of us should be fighting amongst ourselves and we must do our best to be kind to each other every time we speak.

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  30. Adopted One, sorry I was not clear. I was responding to the idea presented by some adoptees that all the powers that be want to hear is from "grateful" adoptees, and that those who are angry are "silenced". Yet these same people who want the freedom to express their feelings and opinions without question or challenge (and they do not differentiate between what is opinion and what it feeling) do not extend the same courtesy to adoptees who feel differently, like Campbell. Witness the cruel and vulgar comment quoted.

    If this has not happened to you, you have probably never expressed an opinion on a blog that ran counter to what some people consider the right adoptee position.

    That you do not do this to others is admirable. But it does happen, adoptee against adoptee, birthmother against birthmother. I have often been accused of being an "adopter" (and much worse:-) for not going with the flow on some topics in some places. This is not something Cambell or I or others have imagined.

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  31. I see that 'poor innocent dismissed' (I shall call her PID) is stating elsewhere that she was 'gaslighted' and 'tricked' on FMF.
    For those who don't know what 'gaslighted' means, they can read all about it here at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting
    "Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception."
    Like that makes a whole shitload of sense for PID. Especially as PID is peculiarly proficient at twisting and misrepresenting the words and meanings of others.

    PID insinuatingly wrote, "I know that some psychologists believe that it doesn't matter what happens to infants because once they get a consistent caregiver, they'll be fine."
    Note those words "Doesn't matter" and "They'll be fine" that PID attributed to these "some" psychologists. Then think about what they imply.

    I asked PID for citations, because, judging by her recent comment history on Dr. Mercer's blog, it looked as if she was particularly thinking in terms of Dr. Mercer.
    PID confirmed this, saying "Dr. Jean Mercer would be one psychologist who argues that adopted children are unaffected by early experiences, even those involving lack of attachment and social deprivation". PID has since called the request for clarification a "trick", which is laughable. There was nothing tricky there. As PID herself acknowledges in her response on FMF, it was a direct question. A valid one too.

    After being respectfully told by Dr. Mercer that she had never said anything of the sort, PID squirmingly protested that she had "merely originally stated that some psychologists would believe practice babies would have no long-lasting effects to the psyche once they had a permanent caregiver."

    Way to dissemble, PID.

    Haigha

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  32. "Yet in many instances within the adoption reform community, there is a definite bias about how one should feel, and how that should be expressed to agree with the prevailing sentiment."

    Status quo.

    If Campbell here tells the blogopshere she adores her adoptive parents & life and admits she has a little curiousity about her biological origins, it's accepted as is.

    If I tell the blogosphere I adore my adoptive parents & life, but grieve the alternate life, I am told how ungrateful I am and people say they "feel sorry" for me because I obviously had a "bad experience" if I grieve a family who "abandoned me."

    I'm not saying Campbell is wrong for feeling the way she does.

    But I am saying, that's the status quo, there is the bias - voice criticism of adoption and you get branded as having a "bad" experience.

    It goes both ways, as Maryanne has suggested with the "rainbow farters" and "Kool-Aid" insults. Absolutely.

    This is just my opinion, clearly, but there tends to be *more* of a bias towards those who *don't* agree adoption is, in the whole picture, a good thing.

    Arguing about adoption online is not like having a discussion face-to-face about adoption. Not by a long shot.

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  33. Haigha - take out the term "adoption." Would the same discussion about attachment theories and bonding apply to a pregnancy discussion?

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  34. "If Campbell here tells the blogopshere she adores her adoptive parents & life and admits she has a little curiousity about her biological origins, it's accepted as is."

    If I were to say that, which I don't, it would not be accepted as is by the blogosphere.

    I don't even go as far as to say I "adore" my adoptive parents and life and still I'm considered delusional, not as self aware as other adopted people.

    I've reread Haigha's comment a few times and can't see where she even mentions the word adoption. Her comment seems to me to be about misrepresentation of facts.

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  35. Reading Haiga's comment, I think, yes, what she said could fit with a discussion about pregnancy, as far as the part about theories of infant development, bonding, and attachment considering the infant's stage of cognitive development before and immediately after birth.

    Most of Haiga's post was about a specific incident and a specific poster, but aside from that, yes, there is controversy about bonding during pregnancy and immediately after birth, whether adoption is part of the discussion or not. There has been research suggesting that newborns recognize their natural mother by smell and sound. What has not really been researched or proven is whether substituting another consistent loving caregiver shortly after birth for the natural mother leaves any lasting memories, conscious or unconscious, or permanent emotional damage to the infant as that person grows and develops. Some say yes, some say no, but the definitive "truth" is just not there yet, and perhaps cannot be determined.

    As to the other issue, are "content" or happy adoptees acceptable on many reform forums, the answer is "no", just as much so as "angry" adoptees not being acceptable on some pro-adoption spaces. I don't see how anyone can miss this. Campbell and others have gotten repeatedly slammed for not agreeing with the reform status quo, that every adoptee should have a burning need to search, and feel profoundly damaged by adoption, else they are "in denial".

    As for the "real world" my personal experience had been that people I meet think it ok that I searched for my son and am reunited, and also generally think adoptees should search, that they would were they adopted. Yes, years ago there was a great deal of hostility to the concept of search, but that seems less and less as the whole idea becomes normalized due to so much media exposure of reunions.

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  36. "Reading Haiga's comment, I think, yes, what she said could fit with a discussion about pregnancy, as far as the part about theories of infant development, bonding, and attachment considering the infant's stage of cognitive development before and immediately after birth."

    Well, do most people think it's "normal" to question the bonding at birth and pre-birth?

    It "could" fit, absolutely. There has been research to present theories about how bonding works, if it really exists during pregnancy, and how outside factors weigh in to the fetus/infant's ability to attach/bond pre- and during pregnancy, as well as post-birth.

    But *is* it? *Does* it?

    I'm under the impression that many of these theories approach these types of discussion on the basis that bonding already exists, rather than *just* the range of bonding. I get the impression that Campbell thinks this line of theory can be considered dismissive as well as it does not take personal experience into account.

    Have you witnessed any online discussions sans adoption that have *actually* happened to question this - to question bonding and attachment?

    I don't know, I have only ever seen dismissal of bonding and attachment as "natural" in adoption discussions. Maybe I should go to pregnancy/bonding/attachment forums to see what people think, if adequate substitution can be "measured."

    "What has not really been researched or proven is whether substituting another consistent loving caregiver shortly after birth for the natural mother leaves any lasting memories, conscious or unconscious, or permanent emotional damage to the infant as that person grows and develops."

    It cannot be proven unless personal anecdotes are taken into consideration, which for some, isn't any real proof at all. Which merely results that while it may not "hurt" or "damage" an infant to be separated, it remains a sort of theoretical stalemate on the question as to if people can be interchangeable.

    Adoption tries so hard to be "as if"... in the same sense as the foundation of a biological family, provided we do not operate on the assumption that the biological family is abusive/neglectful. If the biological family is abusive/neglectful, well then that is a different story.

    Do biological families get interrogated & questioned on their validity? :\

    Honestly, what I was trying to ask is if this conversation would be considered "natural" in a discussion without adoption.

    "Campbell and others have gotten repeatedly slammed for not agreeing with the reform status quo, that every adoptee should have a burning need to search, and feel profoundly damaged by adoption, else they are "in denial". "

    Yes, I have seen what you are speaking of. Are you sure it's not just a few select blogs which do this?

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  37. "I don't even go as far as to say I "adore" my adoptive parents and life and still I'm considered delusional, not as self aware as other adopted people."

    I just wanted to point out in reference to this, that Lori previously said you used what is called a "pre-emptive strike."

    You love your adoptive parents. So do I.

    But I don't know, I think it's the way you write that makes it easier to adoptive parents to read.

    P.S. Sorry for the tangents. Working on my own post and will stop using the comments section as my soapbox. >.>

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  38. No worries Mei Ling. I'm enjoying reading your comments even though I'm not completely clear on some of what you're saying. Maybe further commentary by others will help connect it all together.

    I look forward to reading the post you're working on.

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  39. Hi, just stopped by and wanted to thank you for this post. I do feel that I've been occasionally dismissed by some adoptees because I'm not 'angry enough'. We represent a range of experiences and perspectives. And all of them are true! I don't think any adoptee should have to feel guilty or wrong regardless of what their stance is on being adopted. No one can deny us what we feel unless we let them.

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  40. Mei Ling wrote:"Have you witnessed any online discussions sans adoption that have *actually* happened to question this - to question bonding and attachment?"

    Not online discussions, because as a grandma-aged lady I do not frequent pregnancy forums:-)But I have read that infants do not really attach strongly to their mother or other caregiver until about 6 months, in mainstream child psychology texts and papers. The bonding in pregnancy is more from the mother's side, and can be derailed by emotional issues like not wanting to raise the child. That the infant can recognize the mother is not proof that the infant grieves and is permanently scarred if she is replaced by another loving caregiver. That is the crux of primal wound theory.

    A breastfed baby will quickly associate Mom with food and so prefer her, so that is a kind of bonding, but I do not think real distress at not being with mom happens until the baby is older. This is pretty standard child psychology, nothing to do with adoption.

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  41. "The bonding in pregnancy is more from the mother's side, and can be derailed by emotional issues like not wanting to raise the child."

    How does this debate stand on the idea that most biological children were unplanned pregnancies and ended up being wanted through the 9-month gestation period?

    Or... are we talking about the pregnancies where the mother accidentally got pregnant, gave birth, held her child and still wanted nothing to do with it?

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