It matters, when the truth comes out. As the Senate hearings about impeachment rage on in Washington, it’s easy to think that truth is somehow negotiable.
But in adoption, when the truth comes out matters. (It matters a lot.)
Everyone who adopts at Abrazo signs an Entrustment Agreement. In it, they promise to tell the adoptee the truth of his/her adoption story from Day One. (We want “our” babies to hear their true story from the very beginning.)
We realize (now) that not every parent keeps that promise, because we hear (years later) from those who didn’t. They’re the ones with older kids who don’t yet know the truth. And those parents are panicked about how to break the news so late in the game.
Or we hear from the adoptees whose parents weren’t honest with them. They’re now struggling with the question of how to trust the very people who taught them never to lie, and yet did so themselves.
Sometimes, it’s the birthparents who contact us, heartbroken that the family they chose to do an open adoption with didn’t keep their promises to stay in touch. Or the adoptive parents and adoptee are crushed that the birthparents disappeared from their lives. Either way: it breaks our hearts, too.
The tragedy is that many of the biggest disappointments in adoption could’ve been avoided… if only people had talked the talk and walked the walk.
When the truth comes out, all adoptees need to know that all their parents were always as good as their word.
When the Truth Comes Out
Adoptive parents often say their only reason for not telling an adopted child the truth early on was that they didn’t know how to start. That’s why starting even before the adoptee is old enough to understand words gives the adoptive parents time to practice telling the true story, so by the time the child does comprehend, the parents are comfortable telling it– again and again.
Sometimes, though, it’s just not possible to know what we didn’t know until we do.
One birthmom thought she had honestly identified her baby’s father in the hospital, at the time of the birth. Her boyfriend was there and signed the papers for the adoption, and they’d grieved together afterwards. The adoptive parents agreed to keep in touch with them both, and they kept that promise.
However, as the months and years went by, it became increasingly obvious to the birthmom that the adoptee’s birthfather was somebody else. She struggled with what to do? She feared that everyone would be upset with her, if the truth came out. She didn’t want the adoptee to think she’d slept around. This birthmom knew the guy she’d originally identified would be devastated to know he wasn’t the birthdad, after all. She worried that the adoptive parents would be afraid their adoption had not been legal, and cut off contact.
In the end, though, after much counseling, she found the courage to come forward with the truth. It wasn’t easy, of course. But as she herself would tell you: when the truth comes out, it’s (ultimately) a huge relief. She had to allow for others to be disappointed in her, or even be upset with her. Yet she found peace in knowing she’d set things right– even if it took awhile for the dust to settle.
The Time Is Now
Life is short, and we don’t always have as long as we think we do. If you’re an adoptive parent who has not yet told the adoptee everything they need to know about their adoption story, the time is now to make amends. Because when the truth comes out, you’ll want to still be around to help your son or daughter make sense of their story.
If you’re a birthparent who hid the fact that you had a baby you placed for adoption, the time is now to break the news to your family. Do it before the adoptee (or another relative) does DNA testing and finds out the truth on their own. You’ll want to be able to control the narrative when the truth comes out, and to decide who needs to know.
Maybe you’re an adoptee who’s thinking you have to wait until your adoptive parents pass to search for your birthfamily? Please know that your parents might long to support you in this quest. They may want to be there for you when the truth comes out– many do feel this way. (And even if yours don’t, remember that your adoption reunion may hold needed lessons and growth in store for them, as well.)
Finally, if you’re an adoption professional who has witnessed things you know should not have gone on, maybe the time is now to unburden yourself. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of adoptees from the Baby Scoop Era who desperately long to find their own truth before the time runs out. With so many adoption agencies shutting down, you may be their only hope. Don’t perpetuate the sins of shameful secrecy until the bitter end. (No professional code of ethics can justify that.)
Choose to be on the side of transparency and honesty, and you can’t go wrong. For when the truth comes out, the truth can set you free– and anyone else who may be limited by the lack of it, as well.