My first year on this beautiful planet is almost all but erased. There are a handful of pictures and a few memories told second hand from my adoptive mom. “You were with an elderly couple”, she tells me. “Mom, who brought me to them?” I ask. “I don’t know.” She tells me. “Well, that is sad.” I tell her. “Who held me first in the hospital?” I ask. ” I don’t know.” She replies. “That’s awful.” I tell her. I begin to ask another question about my foster family, but my inquiry ends so her story with me can begin. “Well, we just figured that God kept you for us.” She tells me. She is trying to make it all better. She’s trying to make me feel better and I understand why she tells my story beginning with my beginning with my adoptive family. At 45, I’ve never told my mom how I felt about not knowing who took me from the hospital to their home. I never let her know that I tear up every time I even think about not that one separation at birth, but a second one at 13 months old. Probably, because we adoptees grow up repeating the family story and not voicing our own story.
I am part of a large generation of adoptees who were “scooped up” in what is now referred to as The Baby Scoop Era. This era included the years between 1945-1973 and was due, in part, to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, lack of reliable birth control, and social taboos on parenting as single mothers. Adoption was recommended, highly suggested, sometimes forced, and sometimes presented as “the only” legitimate option to women who were pregnant and not married or women who were pregnant and didn’t feel they had the ability or choices to raise a child alone. It was an era that was perfect for creating heroes. Heroes that swoop in, save the day, and rescue a child from the atrocities they have or might have endured left on their own or with their birth parents. A story with a sad beginning and live happily ever after ending. An era that decided actual birth records needed to be sealed. Birth names needed to be hidden. Genealogy erased. Medical history buried. Culture eradicated. A new story written. In a sense non-fiction becomes legalized fiction. The baby needs to be rescued. Adults know what is best. Hide the facts. Lock it up. Forbidden forever. The baby never gets to grow up. The baby never gets to have his/her own story. Agencies and systems know what is best so that even as adults, adoptees are still treated as infants who are told they have no legal right to their own birth records, their first year of existence, the lines of their story. Babies grow up repeating the lines of script that have been imprinted in their head and heart. “Aren’t you glad you weren’t aborted?”. “Aren’t you thankful that someone cared enough to adopt you?” “Good thing you weren’t stuck in foster care.” “Your parents sacrificed so much to adopt you.” “God must have had a special plan for your life.” “You look just like your family adoptive family.” ” You can’t tell at all you are adopted.” We memorize the lines. We try to fit in. We become perfectionists. Over achievers. Alcoholics. Drug addicts. Our worst qualities assigned to our genetics. Our best qualities assigned to adoptive parents. Our trauma erased by scripts and platitudes. Our voices muted over and over again by ourselves and others. Who wants to change the script when you are already on your second set of parents? Who wants to upset the ones who “rescued” you?
The problem was and continues to be is that an adoptee or any individual shouldn’t have parts of their story erased, buried, rewritten, hid, lied about, covered up, or changed unless they want to tell it that way. If we believe, that our individual stories are pieces and parts woven into who we were, who we are, and who we will be, then we must let them be the one and true story of the individual. My story cannot be my adoptive parents’ story, my birth parents’ story, or the adoption agency’s story. It is my story. I need all the facts of my story. I need the truth of my story. I need the pain, the struggles, the joy, the frustrations, the happiness, the anguish, the exuberance, and all the realities of my life. For it is just that. My life and my life story.