Adoption Trauma: Farewell Charlotte Dawson

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As a fellow adoptee my heart goes out to Charlotte Dawson in her tragic passing. She has been on my radar for many years now, since I found out she was adopted at birth and now, here in memoriam, I can again feel her a breath away from my soul.
A lot has been said about the reasons for her suicide and without wanting to butt in as a stranger where I am not welcome, I do feel I have a silent and meaningful connection with her as a fellow adoptee. There are often many reasons behind a suicide and Charlotte had complex, compelling, and overlapping traumas in her life that may have lead to her early death. However, I would also like to say, from my position as an adoptee, that Adoption Trauma is (as Von Coates has also posted on her Facebook page) still grievously overlooked and underappreciated in society today. I would just like to point out for all those commentators who are genuinely and compassionately trying to piece together and learn from her death (for a beautiful tribute and personal memoriam see Rebecca Sparrow’s article), that Adoption Trauma is real, debilitating, and life threatening. It can have an accumulative effect throughout life and society should not continue to underestimate or overlook how devastating ‘relinquishment’ can be. As Rebecca Sparrow suggests “We let her down’ but I would like to highlight that ‘letting her down’ also includes, and probably hinges upon, society’s lack of understanding and acceptance of adoption trauma in general.
Before every Adoption (no matter how loving the adoptive parents) there is first, from the baby’s perspective, a life-threatening Relinquishment. This is generally not only often forgotten but not even understood. It is for society an unthinkable, unspeakable moment that cannot even be referred to at great length – only in passing (only very recently have we begun to emerge from five decades of deadly silence surrounding adoption).
Being Relinquished is like being born on an Existential Precipice and it is treacherous to manage life from such a precarious position.
Indeed, relinquishment/adoption for the baby and subsequent adult is a dangerous and acutely painful business…
The 2012  Australian Institute of Family Studies report Past adoption experiences: National Research Study  on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices shows that quality of life is one-third lower for adoptees than the general population and that there is a “higher than average likelihood of having a mental health disorder than the general population.” (p. 121). I want journalists, commentators, therapists, and society at large (and sometimes adoptees themselves) to understand more fully the trauma associated with adoption.
I feel sad and deeply moved as so many are by Charlotte’s passing but perhaps I, and others like me, have a personal and experiential insight, a deeper understanding and primal connection to the tragedy with regard to the underlying and often forgotten and misunderstood effects of adoption trauma. I hope that society can learn, not only about depression, bullying and abuse but also, and I feel, most importantly and crucially, about adoption trauma and its primal position in the investigation and understanding of psychopathology.
Farewell Charlotte. I am so so terribly sorry…This fellow adoptee will continue to hold you in her heart always…
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Late Discovery Adoptee: My Story

Me in front of FJ

My story

I am a Late Discovery Adoptee. I found out I was adopted when I was 42 years old.

I was adopted at birth.

My mother never had the chance to touch me (‘they’ told her I died).

I never knew consciously. My origins were kept a secret from me. However, my body knew. My soul. My unconscious. My cells. My muscles. My marrow. My blood. My dna.

The relinquishment orchestrated my life as a phantom conductor might.

That tear, that loss, that irrevocable rupture reverberated. On every level.

So that when I found out, much became clear. The undiagnosed chronic psychological pain. The childhood depression. Marginalisation. Insecurity. Constant anxiety etc…sometimes there are no words to describe the tearing…(see what A for Adoption has to say about her poignant birth experience)

I was very grateful to find out, to be given the chance to understand what has been wrong all these years.

Very grateful.

To know.

To have a chance to consciously grieve instead of that grief leaching out inexplicably into all areas of my life across the silent years. To express what my body had to keep imprisoned (and still, to some extent, does). To heal. To integrate. To hold myself. To embrace my truth.

I have written my story in a fictionalised memoir (the names changed) that I hope will be published soon.

So what happened to me as a child, adolescent, young woman and adult, and how I found out, what happened next… I will leave hanging for now…

In the meantime there are a few themes that I would like to highlight and discuss on this website regarding Late Discovery Adoptees and Relinquishment/Adoption in general.

Themes such as:

The Rights of the baby/child/adult to know…

This is very much an issue these days with laws still banning the release of birth records, donor inseminations, surrogacy, and wombs for hire etc. So it is still a topic to be compassionately understood, and I would argue, from the baby’s perspective. So I will state my bias upfront: I believe every child has the right to know who their parents are (and to contact). I believe their rights supersede the rights of the adults involved. I am not against adoption. But the child must be told and then nurtured through the loss. The adoptive parents also have to know what it means to lose your mother at the very moment you are coming into Being. To lose your Universe. Your Self. Their love cannot replace the lost mother’s love because at birth the baby and the mother are one in ways that can never be replicated. This is where the ‘primal wound’ is given. It is a wound that can never be healed (those lost moments, hours, days, weeks, months, years can never be replaced as they were and might have been). The wound can only be understood. Embraced. Integrated. Nurtured. Seen. Witnessed. Allowed. Made Legitimate. Only then can the wound become some kind of reconstituted nesting place where we can re-womb and give birth to ourselves within our truth, not as marginalised, liminal human beings, not as objects of personal and societal and cultural shame. Only then can we render adoption ethical.

So I write and paint the last (and lasting) memories of my mother.

I photograph the liminal spaces, wherein I find her and, therefore, myself.

I sing – unbeknownst until I was 42 – with her voice. Her echoes. Her reverberations.

That timbre my own.