Not Abandoned, but Left—To Be Found

Growing up, “A” was for attitude. And as I grew older, into the edgy years of puberty, “A” became “AA”—for attitude adjustment. My father liked to say, “You need an attitude adjustment.” Frequently spot-on, his comment was met with a snarl and affirming nod from reluctant me.

As I raise my own kids, the “A” word carries a different meaning. “A” stands for abandoned—an emotionally-loaded, negatively-charged word currently tied to adoption.

Abandoned means being forsaken, deserted without any moral or emotional attachment. Discarded.

Upon hearing the word “abandoned,” often attached to their adoption story, the adopted child’s perception is they weren’t wanted, not loved, undeserving of being with their birth parent(s). What wonderful baggage to have hanging over and in the head of an adoptee as they work through issues of loss and identity. Talk about stacking the deck against someone…

It’s no wonder that adoptees struggle with self-esteem and control. By believing they were abandoned, adoptees still see themselves as of little worth. They begin their life story with an enormous deficit.

I recently listened to Aubry as she inserted “abandoned” within a conversation we were having about her adoption. Her voice grew shrill, horrified.  I struggled to keep any emotion from my face as I heard the pain in her voice and saw it in her expression. I went on to explain that she wasn’t abandoned—but that she was left, most likely by her deeply loving birth mother who was faced with an insurmountable situation, to be found.

My perspective contradicts the majority of the adoption community. But truly, I believe this is so because many birth parents have the other options available and one of those is not to bring a child into this world. The birth parents chose life for my daughters and son.

Adoption experts tell adoptive parents not to shy away from the word “abandoned,” but to use it in order to normalize it and empower their children—as they will be questioned about their adoptee status and past by others. I disagree. “Abandoned” is a minefield.  “Abandoned” rarely is the true or entire story. I don’t use it. I don’t want my kids using it or others using it around them—they assume too much and they often assume wrong. This discussion will continue and so will the education of my kids and of others.



Filed under Adoption Issues, International Adoption, Multicultural Families, The International Mom

6 responses to “Not Abandoned, but Left—To Be Found

  1. great! we’ve just adopted 3 boys from Uganda, 2 of whom were left at the hospital, and one at a busy intersection. all three of those locations scream, “please find my baby, take care of my baby because i cannot.” i thank God for my boys birth mothers…that they had enough love to put their children in such a place to be found.

    however. there are also children in Uganda who are abandoned in pit latrines, found, and given to a baby’s home…how do you ‘spin’ that? i have a friend who did adopt a little boy that was dumped…he was in the ‘canal’ that leads from the opening on the floor, into the pit.

  2. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing this! It is so easy for words to turn into “label” and can be so hurtful!

  3. I’m adopted. I have a loving family. I am grown. I am college educated. I am a woman, wife, mother, friend and for the most part am a happy functioning semi well adjusted woman. And ‘abandonment’ is and has been an issue for me. I have fought it. I have renamed it. I have raged over it. I have given in to it. I have tried everything to get over the deeply ingrained notion that something is wrong with me and that I was abandoned. I am normal except for the fact that having been relinquished left me heartbroken, lonely, confused, and tormented by fear all of which can remain so hidden that they almost seem not to exist. Until they do. And when they are triggered I am not the same person. I am unrecognizable even to myself. I am filled with emotions I have no rational explanation for. No reason for them to exist. I grew up experiencing intense sadness to the point of depression which kicked in around 14. I heard my parents tell me how wonderful adoption is and how I wasn’t abandoned. My life was spared. I was loved and so loved that my birth mother made the hardest decision of her life and ‘placed’ me for adoption so that I could have a chance at life. I should be grateful. Right. I should be thankful that I wasn’t aborted and now go on to live the best life. I was not validated. She was. I was wrong for the way I felt. Her feelings were never questioned. I wasn’t allowed to express the insanity within my soul for which I was implanted with at birth because of someone else’s shining moment. Her finest moment as explained to me is my darkest. I don’t care what word is used it is the feeling that is doing the damage within our souls. Our feelings need to be validated. Our pain needs to be recognized. Our irrational fears need to be worked through and our unresolved grief from the loss of the single most important person in our lives must be addressed and processed. The first step in that process is that the adoption world recognize that RELINQUISHMENT happens prior to the adoption. How about that word. Do we all like that one? Because it doesn’t matter, to our broken hearts, what she had in mind when she chose to not parent us. It is the fact that we LOST our most precious connection, and we are LOST in our despair, confusion, heartache, numbness…
    As adults it is so hard to pinpoint why we just feel so off. Why it is so hard to find happiness? Why when we have been raised in loving homes do we feel so unloved? Why do I feel like something is wrong when there has been nothing in my life to produce it. We can’t grow up thinking and being told that relinquishment is no big deal. We can’t grow up being told that her feelings invalidate ours. A parents must accept the damaging impact relinquishment has on a child. I am not handicap but living with out the validation of my pain has created one.

    • theinternationalmom

      Hi Paula,
      “Abandonment” is an issue. And having it bandied about as if it doesn’t impact those who have been adopted is unjust and cruel. Adoptees have already lost the most precious parts of themselves and dealing with the grief over the loss can be numbing. Parents are responsible for helping their children, regardless of age, work through the grief and validation of self. I appreciate you sharing your feelings and my intention was never to come across as thinking that my children should feel grateful, because I don’t. What you express is what I hope I’m helping my kids with–as they discover and recognize these feelings for what they are. I completely agree with the points you make. Thank you.

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