The Trauma Of Adoption

I grew up in a family who wasn’t like me in any way, physically or emotionally. It was lonely and I felt ashamed of my feelings.

As far as I know, my adoption was arranged privately through Mums GP and my natural Mother’s GP. As soon as I was born, the GP told my Mum about me, who had no intention of adopting a child, but after seeing me decided on the spot that she would. I think I was in the hospital I was born in for at the most, a week or two. I honestly think I can remember being born. I have a visceral memory of terror, of not wanting to come out, of men’s voices and a yucky smell. I think I was terrified to be born and torn away from my natural mother.

I was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, where I grew up with my younger adopted brother. My sister, who was my adoptive mother’s natural daughters, was 17 years older than me and lived overseas, so I didn’t really know her or ever have the chance to bond with her.

I grew up in a very conservative town, and my Mum had a very dysfunctional relationship with my dad, who was a serial philanderer. He left when I was 5, leaving my Mum to run their bakery on her own. That meant my brother and I spent a lot of time either in the bakery, on our own or with babysitters, whom I greatly feared. One yelled at me so much I wet my pants, and I used to wrap up presents from my room to try and make her like me.

When I was 11 and my brother 10, we went to boarding school, largely because Mum didn’t have time to look after us properly and she always said she wanted us to have a good education.

I have met my birth parents though, and we had a relationship for a while, but it hasn’t really lasted. It’s hard to fit into another family when they’ve already established beliefs, relationships, and ways of doing things that you have to fit into. It made me feel lonely and was a painful reminder of everything I didn’t have. They were all normal and together. I had a largely absent father and a very preoccupied mother.

It took me years to find them, and I did it alone. I was born in 1966, so all the records were on microfiche, etc. my father’s name wasn’t on my original birth certificate and my natural mother’s name had changed because she’d been married and divorced twice. Eventually, I stumbled across a document where she’d named the man she believed was the father. So I wrote letters to all the men in Western Australia by that name.

I got a few, “it’s not me” letters back, and then I got his. He still maintained he didn’t think it was him, and that my natural mother had been a bit of a loose woman, (she was 14 when she became pregnant) and that the sex had been “messy”–all way too much information. So he asked for a DNA test and offered to pay. We had the test, and it turns out that he is my natural father. No more escaping the truth for him.

It was another few years before I was able to track down my natural mother. All I really knew was that she had been young when she had me. When I did find her, she didn’t want to meet me because she was worried about the impact it would have on her kids, which hurt because I AM one of her kids. But we met and have had on-again, off-again contact for a few years. It's hard. Being with her is extremely emotional and painful. I can only equate it to sitting next to an open flame. I have so much repressed pain and terror.

I have suffered extreme anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues my whole life. But I’m also the classic high-achieving, well behaved, the people-pleasing adoptee. So I come across on the whole very well, but I do find life very painful and terrifying, and I have never felt like I belong here. I really feel like an alien among earthlings.

During the first few years with my adoptive family, I was a bewildered, terrified, confused child. Why was I here? Why was I with these people? A mother who was older than my friends' parents, and a dad who left when I was 5 in a town where no one got divorced... Why wasn’t my mum nurturing and at home like other mothers?

There is nothing I’m proud of being adopted. Being adopted is nothing to be proud of. It means something went wrong, it means you’re different from regular people. I hate being adopted.

I wish that while I was growing up, there had been some understanding of the trauma that separating a child from its natural mother can cause. I feel I’m still stuck in that trauma, even after decades of therapy, antidepressants, and magnetic brain stimulation, not to mention self-medicating with alcohol.

I think it’s important for people to know this about me because I don’t believe adoption should happen at all. I think it’s a lie.

My adoptive mother raised me, but she isn’t technically my mother, and it’s confusing having to live that lie. Separating a baby from its mother does so much harm to the emotional welfare of the baby. A baby doesn’t care how old their mother is, or how poor, or anything else. The only person in the world who can make a baby feel safe is its natural mother.