Embracing loss in adoption

I didn’t originally use the lens of adoption to view the permanent care program through. I think it was partly the name of the program and partly my limited understanding of the scope of adoption. I viewed adoption in what I would hesitantly now call the ‘conventional sense’ – domestic infant adoption, where a birth parent relinquishes a child and an adoptive family raise the child from birth. The type you see in the movies, on TV shows like Brothers and Sisters (my occasional guilty pleasure). Intercountry adoption has a significantly high enough profile to also not have escaped my attention. However, domestic infant adoption and intercountry adoption are just not options in Victoria for single women, therefore I did not think adoption was an option for me.

So when the penny did drop, a whole new field of research spread out before me. I spent a lot of time on Dawn Davenport’s site, Creating A Family, and went down to the local library and worked my card. An Australian title, Adopting: Parents’ Stories, had the necessary breadth required to lock in the prism which I will then presumably see the rest of this experience through.

It was over on Dawn’s site that I was first introduced to an element of adoption that I’ve thought about a lot since. The blog post was actually on knowing when to abandon fertility treatment from a woman who had recently gone on to adopt, but it made mention of embracing loss:

“Adoption requires that you embrace loss. The birth parents’ loss, your child’s loss, and your own”.

Embracing loss. How does one go about that?

In this woman’s particular set of circumstances, her loss was experienced as never being able to carry and birth a child. I don’t think there’s much question about the loss the child experiences in an adoption, other than the extra sharp edges experienced by children who have faced terrible hardship prior to adoption, in addition to the loss of not being raised by their first family.

I also suspect the loss experienced by a birth family and towards a birth family may look and feel different if the child has forcibly been removed from their care due to violence, abuse or neglect, which is the case with adoption through the permanent care program.

I don’t imagine my personal loss will be about not carrying and birthing a child. That is not my reality now. It may be that I didn’t birth the child that will eventually become mine and the time and space that was lost before we became a family. That I wasn’t able to protect him or her  and make their world safe and calm and trustworthy, before they learned of danger, chaos and distrust. It may be about that, but it will probably be about many things beyond the scope of my knowledge right now.

I found this amazing post on the weekend by Mama C, which captures a moment in time as she processes her adopted son’s loss, and that of his birth mother, when she delivers her biological son.

ETA – After coming across the Tumblr account, Fosterhood, and reading the last 2 weeks of this woman’s life, I feel remiss for not also mentioning the loss experienced by foster parents in foster to adoption situations. In this case, the child has been reunited with the birth mother, but I imagine much of her distress would be replicated in any circumstance where the child was not remaining in her care.

ETA again – just found this post over at Our Little Tongginator, as they wait for their second internationally adopted child to join their home. Captures reflection on loss in adoption beautifully.

For the adoptive parents reading this – did you feel you needed to embrace loss? If so, how did that loss look and feel? Did you feel that you had to acknowledge all three sets of losses equally, or did you feel your child’s loss more profoundly? Or do you think this entire concept is off base?

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2 Responses to Embracing loss in adoption

  1. TM says:

    Thanks for reminding me to read that particular blog post (about Christopher etc.) and thanks for the link to the Mama C post; I’d missed that one.

    I will be interested to see how (if) adoptive mums respond to the questions you’ve posed. I think the concept of “opportunity cost” is really useful in thinking about this stuff, if a concept from economics can be applied to such a human situation.

  2. TM says:

    P.S. Just had a look at the Fosterhood in NYC. Thank you for this! I love it. Although I’m too old for the target demographic 😉

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