It’s been almost three years since I learned my adoptive parents knew my natural mother’s full name, age, a plethora of fairly specific identifers I could have used to track her down, but they chose to keep this information from me. My adoptive mom is tearfully contrite about it now. After I forced the revelation from her. She blames my adoptive father.
“You know how controlling he was.”
And I do, but I also know his emotional abuse never stopped her from doing whatever the hell she wanted when it was important to her. Me knowing the truth about who I was and where I came from was not important to her.
Both of my adoptive parents worried I would leave them and our family if I found my biological family. They weren’t wrong to worry. I was not well-rooted in the family adoption helped them create. I was only barely interested in or attached to their biological families. The odds are, I would have left and not really returned all that much or at all.
It still doesn’t make what they did right. It wasn’t their information to withhold. It was mine.
Even this far into my post-reunion journey, I am still so fucking angry. I don’t think I will ever not be just shy of the boiling point of rage. Every new bit of information I learn about what my natural mother went through, the punitive adoption practices, the mistreatment she endured from her parents, brother, and sister-in-law, the angrier I get. And I don’t know if I am even more angry for her than I am about what I had to go through at this point.
People would like me to be grateful. As if my adoptive parents saved me from something unspeakable and replaced it with something superior. The trouble with this narrative is that it just isn’t true.
When income is factored out, being raised by my natural mother would have been emotionally better for me. There’s no way to argue otherwise. My adoptive parents had a terrible marriage. They were unsuited for each other by any measure you’d care to apply. Highly dysfunctional and that’s before adding my adoptive father’s alcoholism to the mix. The household was chaotic and unsafe. Being well-dressed, fed, and with a roof over our heads on a regular basis should be viewed as the barest of minimums and in no way adequate for children, who are dealing with the emotional trauma of being separated from their natural mothers while simultaneously being expected to heal the infertility trauma of their adoptive parents.
In addition to my adoptive parents hiding information from me to spare themselves, they both used me as I was growing up as a fix for their emotional wounds, and frankly, punished me with their disappointment and disapproval when I failed at that task.
I don’t actually believe in forgiveness. I don’t believe at all in forgetting. That I can carry on in a relationship with my adoptive mother doesn’t mean everything is okay because it isn’t and never will be. There’s nothing she can do about it. That shipped sailed and she waved it off from the docks without a second thought. Living with that is her problem, not mine.
They say you can’t hold a grudge forever, but that’s not true. And that holding grudges is bad for you. I disagree with that as well. I see grudges as deeply defended boundaries, and boundaries are good things.
My goal, however, is not retribution as much as it is finding an acceptable form of closure for myself. One where I know everything that is knowable, gathered into a narrative, shared, and then put away on a shelf to review again if I feel like it. A history of the creation of me. The same as what kept people have and take for granted.