PAGE # 60
All Day Long

I did laundry all day long.

Our washing machine was still busted.  I had called for service the morning after the great flood, but was unable to schedule a repairman for days.  The piles of clothing accumulated at an unprecedented rate.  Fortunately, Jim and Tracey invited me to use their laundry room, but there was so much wash to do, I ended up lugging half of it down the street to Tom's brother's house.  In case I've failed to note the proximity of Tom's extended family members in previous posts, please note that my brother and sister-in-law, Sam and Diana, live only four houses away. 

There was something awkward about bringing my dirty clothes into the home of my in-laws.  This had less to do with the embarrassing odor of it all (it really had been left unwashed for too long), and more to do with the fact that neither Sam nor Diana had come to meet Lily yet.  The rest of my neighbors had and they weren't even family.  I was surprised by the extent of my anger over this.  I expected myself to be more understanding.  Ambivalence was twisting through my insides.  It was unpleasant to say the least.

Only a year and a half prior, Diana had been pregnant with twins following a round of IVF.  Her body had already naturally yielded one son, our nephew Max, but the rest of her reproductive history was punctuated by miscarriages.  A whopping total of six.  Diana could get pregnant easily; staying pregnant was another story.  IVF seemed superfluous given her ability to conceive, but Diana expressed her desire to have twins.  Sam was planning on a vasectomy as soon as they were able to have another child (he wanted to put all the years of reproductive angst behind them once and for all), but Diana dreamed of a much larger family.  IVF was their chance for more than one more baby, given the higher chance of multiples with reproductive technology.

Diana did indeed become pregnant with twins.  They had done gender selection also and this too worked according to plan:  Diana was pregnant with one boy and one girl.  Unfortunately, at 28 weeks gestation, one of the twins suffered a placental abruption.  This obstetrical emergency resulted in the death of their little girl, whom they named "O", and had to bury.  The other twin, a little boy they named Jack, was delivered a whole trimester early weighing a mere 1.5 pounds.  His health at the present time (he is currently about 2.5 years) remains challenged.  He does not eat or drink but is fed through two surgical feeding tubes, one that runs directly into his stomach, the other into his intestines.  He vomits regularly, despite the fact that nothing is ingested orally.  He does not walk.  He does not speak.  While no medical professional can give an absolute prognosis, it seems likely that Jack's future will forever be compromised by his tragic beginning.  We pray that time and therapeutic intervention will prove otherwise.  There is still hope.

So, I could understand why Sam and Diana did not come to meet the newest member of the family.  Perhaps they had become too damaged, too pained, too worn out, too bitter, too tired to come meet Lily.  It made sense.

Nevertheless, my heart pained for this little girl and her also tragic beginning.  I couldn't help but wonder if Sam and Diana considered Lily an inferior family member.  Perhaps they would force themselves to welcome a new baby if she were our biological child?

There was some historical evidence to support my interpretation of their neglect as discriminatory:

Upon meeting Ricky for the first time (Jim and Tracey's adopted son), Diana told them:

"Congratulations.  Good for you that you could adopt.  I would never want a baby that wasn't mine.  But good for you that you guys are the kind of people that do."

Jim and Tracey had been offended.  At that time, Diana had not yet suffered the dual tragedy of "O" and Jack.  There was no excuse.

I could not help but consider the possibility that Diana and Sam simply would never accept an adopted family member into their hearts.  And the more I thought about it, I recalled numerous other instances when I heard them each express negative sentiment toward adopted persons.  Their shared position was not anti-adoption due to a concern for biological family preservation; on the contrary, it was a point of view that lacked empathy for adoptees.  I've even witnessed Sam crack jokes about adopted persons--and under this guise of comedy, I believe, is a hostile and demeaning view of those not fortunate enough to reside with their genetic kin.  As if he is somehow better than them.  

Forgive my detour from the story for a moment, but it occurs to me that when people speak of marginalized sub-groups or disadvantaged populations, adopted persons are unlikely to come to mind.  But when I think about it now, adoptees are unfairly depicted in our popular media all the time.  If an adopted person commits a crime, it's often blamed on their adoptee status.  There is, I think, an undercurrent of devaluation toward adopted folk, as if their status as genetic outsiders somehow renders them less valuable than everyone else.  As if they are unworthy of love, having been rejected by their very mother in the first place.  I could cite a variety of examples from movies or television at this point, but I am not trying to prove an argument here.  I am merely trying to illustrate the possibility that some people are actually hostile in their deepest feelings toward adopted persons.  Whether unconscious or not.

I am reminded now of a story a close friend once shared with me.  She is the mother of three children:  two adopted, one biological.  But her relatives refuse to allow the adopted boys onto the official family tree.  "Only blood relations," they've told her.  

And so that day, watching the laundry spinning round and round, my thoughts existed in a parallel condition--messy, endlessly looping, all mixed-up.  I couldn't tell if I felt angry or sad toward my in-laws.  And I couldn't tell whether I was insane, over-sensitive, or on to something that resembled a dirtier truth:

Perhaps our extended family would never regard Baby Lily as a true family member?

When would they come to meet her?

Why hadn't they yet?

I was too afraid to ask.

To Be Continued...


Cate said...

No none blood relative should be calling themselves mother or father of an adoptee unless and until the adoptee says that's okay, and they shouldn't be added to a GENEALOGY tree unless and until the adoptee says it's okay. And let's hope that at least that's properly marked. -_- Even adoptees have to face it at some point: We are NOT the kin of our adoptive family. There are only bad and good ways for the adoptive family to go about recognising this reality. But magical thinking (an example of which is adding an adoptee to the adopter family tree as if the adoptee has magically gained their genes) is never a good way. And, also, not every adoptee WANTS to be put with their adopters in that fashion.

As far as adoptees being portrayed in the media, I'm of mixed mind on that. On the one hand, no, we aren't ticking time bombs waiting to go off. On the other hand, adoptees are more likely to have problems with mental health and addiction, more likely to commit suicide, and are overrepresented in prisons and juvenile correction. These are real problems and more people need to made aware, somehow, that adoption isn't all roses and sunshine. Media works for that, and most people, deep down, realise it, I think. They know something is wrong with adoption, but they don't quite know how to rectify that with adoption ALSO being presented as "better" and "wonderful" and adoptees as "special" and "chosen".

Jennifer said...


Adoption is definitely a complicated matter, no doubt about that. I don't hope to portray it as all roses and sunshine--that was certainly not my experience at all; albeit, my experience was limited and brief.
I do wonder, though, how one unravels the complicated grief of adoption and connects the causal factors to the long-term consequences of being adopted. How much can be attributed to the primal wound? How much to the secondary crimes (ie maltreatment from others, media, etc.?)
I know it's futile to try and quantify it all or try to reduce a very complex trauma to a single explanation.
All I can do is share my story, and hope it helps someone, and even more optimistically, perhaps helps make some ethical change in adoption in general.
Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment as well.
Moreover, I am interested to hear from other adoptees how they feel about inclusion on their adoptive family's tree. Do you feel inclusion is the act of a lying? Or do you want to be included on such a tree? OR some other reaction altogether?
Please comment if you can help shed light on this issue.
Jennifer :)

Cate said...


Dunno if you want my responses, too, but here they are. Heh. I don't think inclusion is lying IF it's marked. They are genealogy trees, which, by definition, is genetic. I think inclusion should be decided by the adoptee. I was extremely relieved to find the family researcher of my adoptive family doesn't even know I or my adoptive brother exist. Quite refreshing. I made sure I'm on my (regular) family's family tree.

Some adoptees want to be included, some don't. I could really care less, but I think doing it (or not doing it) without asking is wrong.

As for unravelling adoption: Ain't that the million dollar question. I would imagine it's down to a mixture of factors, including abandonment, possible abuse, society, etc, as well as individual factors. Some people cope with trauma better than others. I doubt anyone will ever be able to conclusively pinpoint anything, but society viewing adoption and adoptees differently (ie - adoption is a last resort, stop the lying, stop the magical thinking, stop the pathologising, stop demanding adoptees be grateful, realise it's a trauma) can only help.

I didn't mean to say you were trying to make out like adoption is sunshine and roses. I've read the blog since it came out, but you are non-adopted and grew up in the same society that says these things. I just find it extremely aggravating when people think the solution is to take even more choices out of the hands of adoptees. Things like whether or not the adopters get called by familial terms and whether or not they're on their non-genetic family's genealogy listing should be left for the adoptee in question to decide. Not their adopters or their adopters' family.

Jennifer said...


I think you've identified two (at least two) really important points here:

1) Adoptees may suffer a loss of control over their own lives
2) Adoptees may suffer from a loss/denial of truth/reality

Given these points, the family tree truly does have the potential to further corrupt the truth if used inappropriately in the case of adoption. Thanks for your thoughtful remarks.

Jennifer :)