HERMIONE BLOMFIELD- SMITH
The effects, both positive and negative, of adoption are increasingly the subject of research in many countries around the world. As an adoptee myself, I know that being adopted can be a hugely positive influence in your life, but as with most things, this is not always the case. What I can also say is that no matter what your opinion of adoption is, you will have questions about it; regardless of whether you are adopted yourself, are an adoptive mother or have nothing to do with adoption at all. These questions may arise out of simple curiosity, or from having a more direct association with adoption.
In my case, my twin sister and I were adopted at the age of 6 months from half-way across the world. It still astounds me how far I have travelled to be with my family and where home truly is for me. We had different names, different citizenship and different parents when we started life. Since then, there has been no doubt in my mind that the opportunities I have been presented with would not have been possible, or even accessible had I not been adopted into my family. However, such a positive outcome may not always be evident. Children and young adoptees often struggle with mind-blowing consequences surrounding trust, guilt and identity because of their adopted status. This is not to say that I am against adoption in any way, I certainly would not be where I am without it, but there is a side to adoption that needs to be talked about, understood and brought into account with the decision to adopt.
An American writer, Nancy Newton Verrier, in her book ‘The Primal Wound’, explains that observation of adoptees has shown that there are three outcomes as a general rule, each affecting about one third of adoptees. Two of these are diametrically opposed attitudes towards the mother; “aggressive, proactive and antisocial or withdrawn, acquiescent and compliant”. The final third seem to not suffer from these more extreme effects. Similarly, babies who have been in incubators after birth or otherwise had to be kept separate from the mother will often present these issues.
The main questions I come across in myself and other adoptees I have met are “Who am I?”, “Where are my birth parents?”, “Who were they?”, “Why did they give me up?” and “What would my life have been like?”. I am lucky in that for me the reality of being adopted was always exciting; a mystery about myself that I could pursue as an adventure. Yes, all the above questions apply to me, I don’t know any adoptee who isn’t curious, but I see them as positive questions. Perhaps this comes down to having always known I am adopted. Since I could remember, my mum has always explained to me what adoption meant and answered any questions I had about it. Still, some of the adoptees I know have had very different reactions to being adopted, especially when they have been told at a later stage in their lives.
Recently, adoption has been the topic of much discussion by the public and in social media, including several Radio 4 programmes that have been aired discussing the lately realised possible mental health issues surrounding adoption. In my opinion this is a huge topic that needs to be openly discussed so that awareness can be brought to as many adopting parents as possible and hopefully reduce any negative outcomes that may be associated with adoption. Previously, adoption had been seen and treated as a ‘taboo’ subject, which resulted in shutting off conversations and informative reflections as an inappropriate subject. However, there has in fact been a great deal of recent research into the impact of adoption which I feel is important that all parties understand and discuss freely.
Adoption has always been an open topic for discussion around our dinner table. I feel this should be the case for all families, whether they relate to adoption or not. Opening up of this topic to the public cannot only shed significant insight into the world of adoption. In my view, adoption is a huge opportunity for many children and can convert a child’s life.