The “She loved you so much…” Line

Within a few minutes this morning, I came across two posts about the same thing. I take this as a sign. Both posts were about the old adoption cliche’ which goes as follows: “She, (your birth mother), loved you so much she gave you to another mom and dad…”.  Probably most of us as adoptees were told variations of this sentence back in the day with the intention of reassuring and comforting us.  It might have even worked when we were very small.

Then we grew up and began to process what was told to us in more mature and educated ways.

How can this be? Who loves a baby enough to relinquish it? Why was I really adopted? What happened?

What most of us as adoptees think now is that the “She loved you so much…” line is no longer an appropriate thing to say to an adopted person, especially an older adoptee who is trying to make sense of what happened years ago. Being relinquished and placed with another family is a big deal, and it is normal to wonder what in the world occurred. Good or bad, it was a part of our lives. It IS our business.

Here’s why it’s not appropriate any longer to use the “She loved you so much…” line:

1- It sounds like and is a fantasy story. If we were not consciously aware at the time, we honestly don’t know what would cause a birth mother to make a certain choice. It could have been in part out of love, but there was probably a multitude of reasons for why she did what she did.

Saying anything like the “She loved you so much…” line is putting words into the biological mother’s mouth. It takes away respect for someone who is unable to speak for herself. Adoptees, as well, do not like people speaking out for us, especially if they are not a fellow adoptee. Why would a birth parent want someone to speak and make assumptions about them?

2- The “She loved you so much…” line is often invalidating to the adopted person’s feelings. It’s a sentence intended to shut them down and convince adoptees to not question the past. When adoptees hear this, in particular from non-adoptees who are friends, adoptive family members or any authority figure, we feel as though we do not have the right to wonder or speak our minds, and if we do, we run the risk of destroying the relationships we do have.

Believe me, not destroying relationships is the last thing we want to do since we adoptees understand that one (or two) very critical relationship(s) was severed from the get-go, and we do not want to experience this again just for being ourselves.

Instead of the antiquated response, how about saying :

1- “I don’t know why it happened.” if you really don’t know why because you did not speak to a direct source, (the biological mother), you honestly do not know, and it’s OK, to be honest about not knowing.

No birth mother would really give up a baby without a super-damn good reason. Since we do not know that reason, we should not judge or speak for someone else.

2- “It’s fine if you want to share  what you do know or remember.” This is reassuring and opens a door for fair and honest communication.

3- Depending on the era in history when the adoption took place, this is a good response: “Lots of things were probably out of her control, especially if she was underage.” It shows compassion for the birth mother’s situation and does not take away from the adopted person’s feelings and ideas.

How can we as adopted people respond if a listener chooses to use the old-school response?

1- If they are much older than we are, understand that they come from a different era, and that is the only response they know. It will be difficult to change someone else’s mindset if they are unwilling to change and see another point of view.

2- You could say, “I believe there is more than that to my story and since it is my life I would like to know more.” This does not tell the other person that they are wrong. It adds to the conversation and steers it in a more favorable way for you.

3- Ask, “How would you feel if someone you thought you knew pretty well, suddenly exited your life without explanation? (This is the best comparison I could think of in the moment.) Wouldn’t you care enough to want to know why they went away and if they are alright? Wouldn’t you be just a little curious or concerned?” This question shows compassion for others and shows that your motives are not entirely selfish.

It’s a challenge and always will be to find ways to enlighten non-adopted folks about our inner lives. The other way to enlighten others is to reach out to younger generations of people exploring societal topics. We are all entitled to our own opinions ultimately, but no one should have to accept invalidation for what we feel.

 

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Comments

  • Wendy Beckman  On January 15, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Great post, Paige! I am not an adoptee or an adopter, but from the book I’m researching I could see your point. In that case, the biological mother didn’t want the baby. It was a selfish decision. In later years, she tried to come in and act as a “mentor,” but by then her advances were inappropriate.

    I am constantly amazed at the wealth of information you have gleaned upon your personal journey. Your sharing your knowledge has been of help to others, I’m sure.

  • Paige Adams Strickland  On January 15, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks, Wendy

  • Erin  On March 17, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    I actually know my birth mother loved me so much she gave me what she could not provide: a mother and a father. My mom asked some questions of the agency because she knew I would be curious. So, she loved me so much is true for me. God gave her to me about 9 years ago and she is a lovely person who made a huge sacrifice when my bio father left her. What she prayed for for me came true. I have a wonderful family. Her sacrifice shows her love. I am thankful I know her, and God knew what he was doing and blessing my parents who could not have kids. I enjoy hearing others stories and perspectives!!

  • Paige Adams Strickland  On March 19, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks, Erin!

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