One day while on-line I got a message through Adoption Voices.com. It was from Aurette Bowes. I later found out Aurette and I have a lot in common. She is also an adoptee, a proud Christian and an author.
Her book entitled, Someone’s Daughter; She’s adopted but don’t tell, which is now available on Amazon.com, tells her story about finding out as an adult that she was adopted. For the majority of Aurette’s life she was told she was the biological child of her parents and after years of suspecting something just wasn’t right, she confirmed what she suspected, she was adopted.
I would love to say I flew to South Africa where Aurette lives and sat down with her for this interview, but instead we did it through the magic of the internet. Below are some questions I wanted Aurette to address.
How did you find out you were adopted and what was your reaction?
I deal with this extensively in the first chapter of my book, but in a nutshell (and hopefully without giving too much away) I suspected that I was adopted virtually my entire life. There were various clues that pointed to this. When I was diagnosed with clinical depression at the beginning of 2001 I confided my suspicions to my counselor who suggested that this may be an underlying reason for my depression. Eventually I decided to confront the issue once and for all and ask the question.
As for my reaction, let me say this. Suspecting you are adopted and confirming it are at opposite ends of the spectrum. I honestly thought it wouldn’t matter if I was adopted but I was so very wrong. The knowledge was completely devastating. In one word “yes” (you are adopted) my entire identity, the one I had grown up with, was completely wiped out.
How did your Christianity and your belief system help you through this experience?
My faith was and is my anchor, my safe place, my only way out of the hole of depression. For this I have my adoptive parents to thank, who brought me up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”. As I state in my book, my birth mother gave me the gift of life, but my adoptive parents gave me access to eternal life, which I would not have known had my birth-mother kept me. It’s a no-brainer as to which is the greater gift.
In the book you talk about your dual identity, can you explain that?
My biological identity (nature) and my adoptive identity (nurture). I have a birth family to whom I am biologically connected but with who I share no emotional ties. Then there is my adoptive family with whom I am not biologically connected at all, but who is the recipient of my love and devotion.
In your press release there is a statement that floored me. It states, “Without rejection and loss there is no adoption.” Can you explain that?
This comes from an article called Lifelong Issues in Adoption by Deborah Silverstein and Sharon Roszia, which I refer to in my book. They say that before adoption can take place, triad members have to first experience loss. The adoptive mother loses the biological child (they call it her dream child) she always wanted owing to infertility, the birth mother loses the child she gives away, the adoptee loses his/her biological family.
The loss never ends for the triad members. The adoptee can never forget their biological family they have lost, the adoptive parents can never forget the loss brought about by infertility and the birth mother can never forget the child she gave away.
There are no formal processes for the birth mother and the adoptee to grieve these losses, as there is when a loved one dies or in divorce. The birth mother is expected to get over it and get on with her life, while the adoptee is expected to be grateful for being adopted. I don’t have to tell you how much pain this causes.
I strongly urge all triad members and indeed, even those not touched by adoption to read this article. If you Google it you will find it. It’s a real eye-opener and puts so many aspects about adoption into perspective.
Coming through what you did what are your feelings about adoption?
I’m in favor of adoption, but only if there is no way the birth mother can give her child a better life by keeping the child. For example, it would be better for celebrities such as Madonna to financially sponsor a poverty-stricken child in another country without taking that child away from their family. I don’t believe that permanently removing a child from the family he/she knows and loves, the culture and language he/she has become familiar, all in the name of giving them a better life, is ultimately good for the child. The consequences of breaking those emotional bonds will haunt the child for the rest of their life. Wouldn’t it be better to rather let the child remain with the family and for the celebrity to become their financial benefactor?
Who did you write this book to and who would benefit from reading it.
Essentially, South African adoptees probably stand to gain the most from the book because in it I describe how our Department of Social Developments assists all adoptees in conducting a legal search for their birth parents. They also provide emotional support in the form of counseling and guide the adoptee throughout the reunion process, which can be extremely traumatic. During my journey I read a lot about adoption but most of the literature I came across was American in origin. While the generic stuff was extremely helpful, when it came to the legal aspects of search and reunion I found the South African situation was very different from that in the US. Birth records are no longer sealed in SA – they were unsealed in 1987, so all adoptees can find out who their birth mother is and even search if they want to. The social worker who worked on my case told me that many adoptees have no idea about the service provided by our government, so I decided to address this in my book.
Legalities aside, however, Someone’s Daughter is for all adoptees who are struggling to find healing from the never-ending barrage of emotional issues they encounter throughout their lives as a direct result of their adoption.
Birth mothers, adoptive parents, immediate families and sufferers of depression will also benefit from reading Someone’s Daughter. It is a deeply personal account of how I came to find true healing. Whether readers decide to follow the same path is up to them.
I found retracing my steps really helped me find out who I was and am. What did you learn about yourself writing this book?
I discovered the reason for many of the securities I have – mostly as a result of my adoption. I gained greater insight into myself as a Christian and learned what it truly means to be wholly dependent on God. Also, that no matter what happens, He is always in control and that He can turn any evil into good, provided you allow him to. I think the biggest benefit I derived from the process is a closer relationship with the Lord.
In the book you talk about your search for your parents, If you were to create a kit for adoptive parents that would help them find their child’s birth parents what would be in it?
Firstly, the full name of the adoptee’s birth mother and birth father, as well as their nationality. Then, as much information about the parents as possible – photos, letters, anything that can help fill the biological void that being adopted has created.
As an adoptee, for most of my life I didn’t know I had issues that were related to me being adopted. What can parents do to help their children with these potential issues that the adoptee may not even be aware of?
Read, read, read as much as you can about adoption. It’s not purely a joyful experience. There is much pain involved and it starts the moment the adoptee is separated from their birth mother. Nancy Verrier’s books are wonderful resources. She is a trained psychologist who has an adopted daughter. As her daughter was growing up she couldn’t understand why, no matter how much love she gave her, her daughter continued to rebel, act out and push her away. So Nancy decided to do her Master’s thesis on adoption and what she found was astounding. When I read her book The Primal Wound it was though I was reading about myself. So much of what she said validated my personal experiences. If you haven’t read it I strongly urge you to do so.
I also believe in talking to other adoptive parents and allowing their children to interact with other adoptees. Doing this is extremely healing because it helps to validate everything you are feeling.
What additional advice would you give adoptive parents?
If your children want to search for the biological parents it doesn’t mean they intend on deserting you to be with their birth mother. All we want to do is find out where we come from, know who we look like, where we got our talents from, which parts of us are nature and which parts nurture.
Also, talk openly about the adoption. My adoption was a closely guarded family secret and even though everything has come out, my parents still have a very hard time talking about it. This is only because they are insecure, as many adoptive parents are. Just as adoptees are afraid of rejection and abandonment from the adoptive family, so are adoptive parents afraid their child will reject them for their birth family, or that someone will come and take the child away, because they are bad parents, or because the birth mother has changed her mind. This may seem ridiculous to others, but to adoptive parents it’s a very real fear.
As an adoptee I can’t wait for my copy of Aurette’s book to arrive so I can explore some of the issues she talks about.
Come back on Saturday, February 20, 2010. I will be posting one of my most heartfelt yet controversial pieces called, LOVE IT NOT ENOUGH