Currently, it seems a good idea to branch an aspect of the current ongoing discussion of adoptive origins to another (this) post, but it should distinctly continue to be cross-pollinated with this post and this post and their comments.
agonizing as it may sometimes turn out to be, our opportunity as adoptees to recognize that “stories told to children” (whether adopted or not) needn’t be monolithic, single-voiced, much less “true,” gives us a major leg up on non-adopted children.
Once a child (non-adopted or not) receives a story of an origin, it becomes enforceable (by the family) and obligatory (within the family). The question has been asked further, what is the utility of such stories (particularly for adoptees) for society at large. This could be asked more generally: how do such fabrications (presented as histories), i.e., stories told to all children of origin, reproduce the status quo we would critique as adoptees. And, for this post in particular, in what way are generically non-adopted stories of origins distorted?
A most glaring initial difference is that we have two mothers (and/or two fathers). Non-adopted stories of origin do not. and it is telling, and probably no accidental, that no distinguishing term has ever been widely disseminated to distinguish between the woman out of whose womb we came (our mother and/or father) as distinct from the woman who was present (more or less) during our growing up and beyond (our mother and/or father). There is no noun for this; at most, there is an adjective, that makes a distinction between a biological mother (and/or father) and an adoptive mother, although frequently the adjective seems to drop off for the latter.
The word “biological” immediately becomes curious, since what it distinguishes should propose we have an “artificial mother” or a “mechanical mother” as well. Similarly, if the woman who was more or less present when we grew up and beyond is referred to as an ‘adoptive” (or “adopting”) mother, then again the parallel with what our other mother should be becomes strange. Logically, she should be the non-adoptive (or non-adopting) mother, which necessarily refers to everyone on the planet who might be a mother.
In typical human discourse, when there is an exchange one usually finds terms on both sides of the exchange (i.e., giver, taker). Here, there seems to be a curious disconnect. We could be unsentimental and simply resort to “donor mother” and “recipient mother,” though that probably puts too far out in the open that a financial transaction is occurring. It might be asserted or objected that it is precisely “biological” and “adoptive” that are the two sides of the adoption exchange, but if so, the above is not negated (for one) and second, it gets obvious that (in contrast with usual discourse like “give” and “take”) that something very contrived must be at work to make the terms “biological” and “adoptive” into such transactional opposites. “Donor” and “recipient” or “borrower” and “lender” or “perpetrator” and “victim” do not seem to conflate disparate logical categories in the same way that “biological” and “adoptive” do. That is, the “logical” antonym of a “borrower” is a lender; the logical antonym of the perpetrator is the victim. Even such more stretched relations as judge and criminal or teacher and student or parent and child more readily make sense than claiming the opposite of something “biological” is not something “artificial” or “mechanical” or “non-living” (inert matter).
What is particularly missing in this suspect label swapping from “biological” to “adoptive” mother is a term for the institution that intervenes between the two “mothers” (be that the adoption agency, the orphanage, the foster system, &c). Without going into this, It’s probably safe to say that it is this institution precisely that (disingenuously) swaps the (non-adjectivized) word “mother” from the “biological” to the “adoptive”.
Again, the point of all of this is to ask how the “genre” of non-adopted origin stories affect our adopted origin stories. This is me asking again, “What’s your adoption fantasy,” but this time more with an emphasis on what the “literary” resources are that one may draw upon to fabricate (in Mark’s sense) this story, either on our own or as we encounter it from (adopting) parents.
The capacity to have multiple mothers is an attribute of the adoptee. I claim four, for instance. What this points out (to me) is that I don’t accept the premise that I must have a “real” mother (because only “one mother” can be one’s real mother). Social retard that I am, this sense of social kinship has manifested in my life by a more generalized sense of affinity with the whole human race–by which I mean specifically “whoever is standing in front of me at any given time”. This doesn’t mean I like everyone; it means that I engage with them in a way that obviously gets tagged as “too familiar”. This is, of course, simply my experience, and it also arises out of a profound and total sense of alienation from human kind when I was younger, but perhaps it would be more helpful to think of this not as my inability to connect with people, but rather with the inability of everyone around me to connect with me in the intensity and immediacy that I was ready to bring to them. In any case, personal autobiography aside, I’m suggesting that the (false) story I was told,t hat I “have a mother” (singular) is a very distinctly inadequate (narrative/generic) imposition on the non-adoptee origin story. So that any yearning I would have to find MY mother (capitalist entitlement alert) is already a symptom of my own (false) acculturation to a set of (non-adopted) values that necessarily alienate me from my self.
But I’m suggesting also that non-adopted children (at the very least) might benefit from the notion of having multiple mothers. Like the notions of karma or reincarnation, it is not a question whether they are “true,” but rather what social work can they accomplish in the social world. Africa knows it takes a village; Hawaiian kinship terms make every adult female your mother, so other people around the world already know this. So the idea that we have only one mother has to be seen as symptomatic of middle-class property rights, capitalistic social control, &c.
The above only points to one instance of how the culturally available discourse of origin-stories for children (1) distorts the historical actualities of adopted children, and (2) participates in the reproduction of a status quo may find undesirable.
What, then, are other ways that our origin-stories were distorted by the available discourse. And how does our own commitment–not only to whatever origin-story we’ve attached to or had attached to us–cause needless grief in our life precisely because we’ve accepted those available generic terms? If I’m sad because I can’t find my “real” mother (or my “real” family), how did I ever come to believe that I (or anyone) has a “real” family in the first place at all? If that’s a social lie,w hat does that say about non-adopted children’s experiences vis-à-vis the people they grew up with. But more than this, what loyalties are being exacted upon them toward the end of reproducing a status quo that very few people find actually satisfying intraculturally, much less morally, ethically, and even economically sustainable interculturally around the world?