Is an Adoptee a “Gift”?

Recently I read a blog post from a birth/first mother/ author I’ve been following for a few years, Denise Rossele. While I was writing my first memoir, Akin to the Truth, I read her book, Second-Chance Mother because I needed the perspective of a birth mom. (Mine is no longer living, and I wanted to find a way to connect and learn.) Denise is realistic yet upbeat and shows compassion and respect for all sides of the adoption community, therefore I value her opinion on adoption-related topics. She recently happened into a conversation about adopting children and what a “gift” adopted children are.

Hmmm…

I am not a gift. I’m a person. What’s so troubling and triggering about the word, “gift” in relation to adoption is that often we think of gifts as items. We give gifts for birthdays, weddings and holidays. We buy gifts at Macy’s, Target and Amazon.com, and we bring them home in the car or have them arrive on our doorstep via UPS. Occasionally we down-load our gifts.

Using the term “gift”, as in the “gift of adoption” reduces adopted human beings to parcels of property, given and gained through transaction and trade.

I think of my children, instead as a blessing. I also have the blessings of other family, my marriage, a home, good friends and even our family cats and dogs. My work is a blessing. No one else had to endure a loss or defeat financially or emotionally in order for me to have my blessings.

“Gift” isn’t a bad word. I’m sure the person who used that bit of language with Denise did not intend to be condescending or insulting. The lady who said it was not thinking that while adoption is a wonderful gain for some people, for others it’s a heart-breaking and bittersweet loss/ sacrifice for someone else, (Birth family).

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t use the word “gift”. (The LAST thing I want to be is the Word-Police, and goodness knows that certain sectors of the adoption community have enough of those types.) What I am saying is that we should be mindful about what we say and around whom. Open-door comments such as: “What was that like for you?”, “Tell me about your experience” and “What is it like for you now?” go a long way and invite sharing and understanding.

As a community, our perspectives are diverse and often intense. Not only do we need to educate the general public about what we believe to be true and why, but we also need to educate  and support one another. It’s an on-going thing as we all begin to speak out more.

If you are interested in Denise’s side of the story, here is a link to her blog:

http://www.secondchancemother.com/disappointing-moment/

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Comments

  • Nara  On December 28, 2015 at 11:07 am

    I was adopted as are quite a few people I am close with. I can’t speak for them all but when we have discussed it, we haven’t really enjoyed being called “gifts”. To call a person a gift is to commoditise / dehumanise them. It also has connotations of other adoptee tropes such as “gift from God” and “God’s will” and “I wished for a child and God sent you” – all of which are problematic as they perpetuate the idea that the adoptee has no control or desire him/herself and is merely a pawn or item to be traded. (It’s God’s will that a child be separated from its first family? Really?)

    I am really quite happy generally and feel like I am a well adjusted person. I’m not damaged terribly by adoption as far as I can tell, but I do have issues with people’s terminology and well meaning phrases that are perpetuated within that community. Oh and every single adopted person I’ve ever mentioned it to *hates* the term Gotcha Day. We are not prizes to be won or items to be stolen. We are people.

    • Paige Adams Strickland  On December 28, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      Agreed. “Gotcha Day” is moronic. We don’t even do that with our pets! P.

    • eagoodlife  On December 30, 2015 at 11:20 pm

      Hit the nail on the head here! “To call a person a gift is to commoditise/dehumanise them.” The whole of adoption commoditises adoptees simply by the exchange of money.

  • Gail Perry  On December 29, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Also, from the point of view of a birthmother….it seems to me that a “gift” has to be freely given. None of the birthmothers I have met since 1969 have ever shared that their child was “given freely”. Most have felt that their children were “given” (if we are to use that word) only following enormous pressure, sacrifice, and gut-wrenching turmoil. Many have felt that their children were “stolen”…not by the adopting parents, necessarily, but by social workers and/or child welfare agencies. For these reasons, I think using the term “gift” is misleading. A blessing? Yes, to APs, the adopted child is certainly a blessing. And in spite of our loss, some birthparents (who have had the opportunity to meet and rejoice in the successes of their surrendered children) consider their lost children a blessing as well.

  • Michelle  On December 31, 2015 at 4:22 am

    Great writing and definitely gives one another way to look at how we choose our words thank you for the information and your opinion we value it tremendously Thank you again

  • catsiecats  On January 20, 2016 at 2:19 am

    Every baby born is, a gift I think too many Get caught up in terminology.
    I’m a gift to everyone who loves me.
    I just don’t understand why some tens now must be politically correct

  • Paige Adams Strickland  On January 20, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks, catsiecats, I certainly do understand the point about getting caught up in terminology vs. understanding what the speaker’s real meaning/intention is.

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