John Nooney: Adoption

“Have you found your birth-mother?” is, more often than not, the first thing people ask me when I mention I am an adopted child.

Think about that.

When you share information about yourself, it is the first response that matters most; the first reply has the biggest emotional impact.

So, if the first response to news of adoption is wanting to know if you’ve found your birth-mother (often stated as Real Mother), one begins to feel they need to seek her out.

People ask this particular question, breathless with excited anticipation of an affirmative answer — they’re wanting a feel good story, with a big, bold headline: “Adopted Child Reunited With Real Mother!”

The question ends up making me feel as if the asker somehow views my adoptive parents (the people I think of as my only parents) as being inferior to Real Parents. It’s like they imagine I was kidnapped from my Real Mother, raised by people pretending to be my parents, and that I need to be rescued and returned to The Real Parents.

It’s insane.

And, it’s hurtful.

I’ve not spent much time thinking about my birth-parents. Sure, I’m curious what they look like, what their story is, and, more importantly, what their medical history is, so I know what to watch for. Other than that, I have little interest in them. Not for bad reasons — I don’t hate them for giving me up for adoption. I think my birth-mother made the best choice she knew how to make at the time. When people want to know if I’ve sought her out, I begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Am I supposed to find her? Is there supposed to be a yearning for my Real Mother’s loving arms?

They say mothers have an unbreakable bond with the child they carried in their womb, that they’d do anything to protect that child. Am I, as the child in the womb, supposed to have that same unbreakable bond?

I don’t feel that bond.

I thought of searching, but when I began to think about the consequences of finding my birth-mother, I lost interest. What if she was married to a billionaire? Would I then hate my middle-class roots? What if she turned out to be a meth-addicted prostitute? How would I feel then? Knowledge can be dangerous. I was scared of what I might find — and what I might or might not feel.

I’ve spent many helpful hours in therapy over the years, though I’ve left several therapists because they’ve tried to convince me that my issues started by being abandoned by my birth-mother; that even though I was newborn, I was able to sense her abandoning of me, and its impact is at the root of many of my issues.

One thing I have absolutely no doubt about: I do not feel that my birth mother abandoned me.

We don’t know what communication passes between mother and fetus —  though we often surmise. Perhaps because giving up a child is such a gut-wrenching decision for a mother, the trauma she feels imprints itself on her unborn child, and, perhaps, leaves some children with a sense of an emotional abandonment.

Maybe there is a reverse that is also true: maybe a mother can tell her unborn child that it is being given up for the best reasons, that the decision she is making is one made out of an unimaginable love — a love that wants her child to have a home better than the one she can provide. And, maybe, communicating that love can leave an adopted child feeling that it hasn’t been abandoned, but that it is a child, being given as a gift — a great gift.

Sentimental claptrap? Maybe.

Our society runs on the belief of individuality. We take pride that we’re all different, that everyone’s story is not the same. Yet, we’ll try to claim that every adopted child should feel abandoned? It makes no sense. We are either all different, with different stories, or we’re not.

Growing up, my mother told me a story:

“There was a man and a woman who loved each other very much. They wanted to have a family, but, unfortunately they couldn’t have kids. One day, they got a phone call — there was a young woman who was having a baby, but, she was young, and was struggling to make ends meet. She wanted her baby to have a better home than she was able to give him. She knew that the man and woman would give her baby a loving home. So, the man and woman got on a plane, and, when they came home, they had the young girl’s baby with them. They were very happy to have him, and they loved him very much. There are many kids in this world who live in homes where they aren’t loved or wanted,” my mom would say, “and adopted children are special: they’re wanted very much.”

Mom would ask if I knew who the man and woman were, and I’d say “you and dad”.  It was a story I liked to be told, and would often ask to hear it.  I especially liked the ending: they were happy to have him; they loved him.

Adoption gives birth to thoughts and feelings across the emotional spectrum: from feelings of profound love, to feelings of despair and abandonment. Mixed in with those feelings, at least for me, is a sense of loyalty to the people who adopted me, who opened their hearts and home to me. Along with that sense of loyalty goes a sense of obligation: to believe that adoption is ok, that it’s a wonderful, loving thing. I grew up in an environment that felt loving, so it was something I never questioned.

I’m adopted, but it doesn’t change the fact that my family is as much a family as anyone else’s family.  We’ve managed to look past the wounds and the scars that all families accumulate over the years. I like to think that in spite of all the pain and hurt, that when we look at each other, we see the love, see the strength of a love that’s been tested and that still holds us together.

Afterword: “This is my telling of one person’s adoption: mine. I am in no way trying to say that my words apply to all adopted children. My opinions on adoption may be different than yours — and, that’s ok. Adoption, just like any other family issue, is unique to each individual and each family. Please do not interpret my words as a generalization of the experiences of all adopted children. This is my tale, my story, my thoughts.”

© John Nooney 2014
blog: Johnbalaya

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Ellen Stockdale Wolfe: Never, Never

“It won’t happen again.  Never. Never. Never.  It’ll never happen again.  No. No. No.”

 The words to a song by Yusuf, better known as Cat Stevens, about a love affair gone awry.  The words reverberate in my head repeatedly in true Bipolar style, as in true Aspie style, I listen to the song over and over and over and over again.  My perseveration on the song fashions the words into a mantra, sending me full throttle into another state of consciousness, like the whirling dervishes of Istanbul who spin until they enter a mystical state.  Since I no longer alter my consciousness with alcohol, cigarettes or recreational drugs (was too crazy to go that route), and since I am on anti-psychotic medications which keep me in reality, I have to use music, meditate and  take refuge in nature to venture into my much-missed mystical states of being.  The states today are washed out versions of the vibrant intensity I was accustomed to earlier in my life.  But then, at age 28, my mind, never too strong to begin with, broke down and reality shattered into so many smithereens of glass.  “It’s always a trade-off,” the experts say.  But (and a “but” with a capital “B”) the psych meds hold me together and, most importantly of all, they allow me to love.

“It will never happen again.  No. No. No.”

I can’t say that.  My first major manic episode was ignited by a flaming crush at work that catapulted me into the fractionated world of psychosis for a very long time.  Some thirty years later I am unsure just how far away that world is.  It is not unusual for love to trigger the first manic episode in Bipolars, and I had another when I met the man who was to become my husband.  This time the psychosis lost the war– because the love was reciprocated and nurturing– the most stable thing I had ever experienced.  And (big “and”) because I was medicated. Though it felt like another break with reality was encroaching on my psyche, it never materialized and has not since.

But there have been close calls now and then.  Writing my memoir of madness while working part-time, I would go to my job with all the raw feelings I was writing about whirling around inside me and, seemingly, outside me as well, as though stamped on my forehead.  The memories and flashbacks bubbled up from deep inside like a lava flow of feelings. But no breakdown.

Mania is not the only state that flirts with psychosis.  So, too, does the underbelly of the beast, depression.  Loss of loved ones and caring for my dying mother brought me perilously close to the precipice again but extra medication kept me on the sane side of psychosis.

Even now any highly emotional experience (and being bipolar there are many) can shake the foundations of the self.   Beholding great beauty in ecstatic encounters with nature, profound connections between thoughts and ideas, connecting deeply to another person—all these can send me reeling into space wondering if I can make it back to earth.  These are all dangers I engage in somewhat recklessly for they make up the majestic magic and mystery of life. Friends and family I have helped keep my feet on the ground, but my husband is my real anchor to reality.  Should something happen to Tom, well…

No.  Unlike a dead love affair, I can’t say the descent into madness “will never happen again.”  As I drift in and out of tantalizing trips into mania and try to flee the inevitable free fall into depression, I hang on for dear life and will not let go.

(Click here for information on, and to purchase Ellen’s Bipolar/Asperger’s memoir.)

© Ellen Stockdale Wolfe 2013
blog: MOONSIDE

Andrew MacLaren-Scott: An Unlikely Tale

I claim to remember the day I was born, a possibility reinforced by the testimony of my mother.

I have a blurry memory, like a slow video replay, which I discovered in my head at a young age, and after watching it play through many times I mentioned it to Mum, and her response surprised me.

This memory gives me the impression of lying on my back, and there is a high white panel rising up beside me, to the right, but then it seems to move aside in a gradual motion that I could now interpret as perhaps a door that was open being pushed closed. Then a high wide blue blurred shape appears beside me, looming over me, and at the top of the blue there is a fleshy blob framed in black, which approaches, moves down, very close to me, but never resolves itself into focus. And then another big blob moves in from the left, a bright pink one this time, with another roundish hazy blob on top, that moves in on me too, and then the silent images stop.

This scene replays within my mind any time I want it to. I have, of course, just watched it again right now. And when I first told Mum about it, as a young boy, I do remember that she seemed puzzled, and frowned, then said, ‘Goodness, that sounds like the day you were born.’

I was born at home and my mum explained how on my first day of life I was in a cot tucked in behind a white door to my right, and there was a big fat dark-haired midwife in blue and my mother was in a bright pink nightdress, resting on the bed over to the left of the cot. And on the day after my birth my cot was moved over to beside the window, with its green curtains – a quite different landscape altogether.

‘As a baby, you were never right beside a door on your right ever again,’ said Mum, ‘and these colours and positions exactly match the few hours after you were born.’

I don’t know if it’s true or not, I don’t know if anything is true or not, but I have heard tales of other people who claim to remember their birth, or just after it, but then lots of other people are deluded nuts.

© Andrew MacLaren-Scott 2014
Andrew blogs at Andrew MacLaren-Scott
science book: here
fiction books: here