Suzette Martinez Standring: Adoption’s rarely revealed wounds

Suzette Martinez Standring

More than 16 million children and birth mothers in the U.S. are affected by adoption. Children find a loving home. Adoptive parents create a family. Yet there are unspoken wounds for adoptees, adoptive parents and birth mothers, according to Joe Soll, L.C.S.W., D.A.P.A, who is a New York psychotherapist and adoption expert with more than 25 years experience.

He is not anti-adoption, but he is against how it is practiced currently.

Sealed records block information about origin, heritage, family and medical history from an adoptee. When one’s history is wiped out, there is a feeling of “annihilation.” The natural mother-child bond should never be dismissed in the adoption process.

“They might have great adoptive parents, but adoptees still have pain over losing their mother. Society says we’re supposed to forget about that. It’s trauma of the highest order to lose one’s mother, but nobody gives them consolation for that,” said Soll, the author of “Adoption Healing … The Path to Recovery.”

Adopted as a 2-week-old infant, Soll learned about his adoption at age 4. He felt disconnected throughout his childhood and as an adult, partly due to a genetic predisposition very different from his adoptive family. His greatest regret is that his origins and background will remain a mystery forever.

“I had always been told that my real parents died in a car crash, but it was a lie. I confronted my mother and she said she was going to tell me when I was ready. I was 42! I was a black market baby. All my records are falsified. I don’t know my birth date or where I was born.”

Today, at age 70, he is director and co-founder of Adoption Crossroads, an international non-profit connected with more than 470 adoption agencies, mental health institutions and adoption search and support groups in eight countries. The trauma adoptees carry has nothing to do with the amount of love or measure of care given by adoptive parents. Rather, the severing of the natural mother-child bond is an inherent awareness they carry throughout life, no matter how young they were at adoption.

Recently, a new movie, “Mother and Child,” examines this bond. A middle-aged single woman, who at the age of 14 gave up her child for adoption, experiences lifelong remorse and yearning. Her now 37-year-old daughter, a successful lawyer with intimacy issues, remains angry at being given up for adoption. Another woman who cannot conceive is desperate to adopt a child, even if it means sacrificing her marriage.

Rarely is such pain voiced. Soll recalled public reaction to one of his adoption support groups featured on ABC TV show “The View.”

“I had about 60 adoptees and natural mothers talk about how much it hurts to have had their ties severed. The producers were inundated with outrage from adoptive parent groups. So great is our society’s regard for adoption, that any criticism is met with fury and outrage.”

Soll sheds light on what often goes unsaid.

An adoptee may feel searching for a birth mother might cause rejection from the adoptive family. “So many adopted people will not search because they think it’s disloyal, but any loving parent would want their child to be whole.”

No one prepares birth mothers for the lifelong pain caused by the severing of the strongest of all human bonds. “Adoption is a $3 billion industry. That’s how much money changes hands for babies every year. They coerce women even today to give up their babies.”

Few adoptive parents would ever admit their disappointment that things didn’t turn out well with their adopted children.

“Parents expect adopted children to be like them, to be like their flesh and blood, and we can’t. Again, it has nothing to do with the quality of love or care. It has to do with the inherent sense of loss the children cannot shake and a matter of genetics.”

Toward healing, Soll recommends adoption support groups and embracing the inner child through self-therapy exercises.

“One talks out loud in one’s head to the child one once was and corrects the mistaken beliefs about the reasons for the hurts of one's childhood and nurtures the wounded part of the psyche. This work was developed by John Bradshaw and I've modified it to be adoption specific.”

Adoption is born from a great desire to love a child. To give voice to one’s fears and longings takes courage. To listen is yet another sign of great love.

Suzette Standring is the award-winning author of “The Art of Column Writing” and teaches writing workshops nationally. Visit www.readsuzette.com or e-mail her at suzmar@comcast.net.