Adoption is not a once-off transaction, an isolated event. It is a multi-faceted, multi-layered, lifelong journey. And by sharing our stories, our lived experiences, our truths, I hope we are able to bring an end to the suffering of all those burdened by so many unnecessary secrets, and stigma, and shame.
This is my story. But it is also my birth mother’s story, my birth father’s story, my adoptive mother’s story, and my adoptive father’s story. All three voices in the adoption triad – birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adoptee – as well as professional insights from the social worker involved in our case, are represented across the pages. This, I believe, makes Umbilicus one of the most balanced books you will find in the global canon of adoption literature on the subject of closed (private) adoption and its not uncommon effects on all members of the triad.
Although my story deals with what is officially termed a closed, domestic, same-race adoption, and I do not claim to speak on behalf of all individuals adopted under this system, I do know that many of our unique challenges growing up as adoptees are universal. And I believe it is my duty, my calling, to be a voice for the voiceless. To paint an accurate portrait of the challenges faced by many adoptees the world over, particularly during the teen years, as we all strive to acquire a sense of self and forge our own identity. To fast-forward a few years beyond the adoption agency’s picture-postcard image of a happy mom cuddling a chubby baby, and relay with authenticity the raw dynamics within a not atypical adoption triad.
Like Frederick Douglass so wisely wrote: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And having personally run the gauntlet over nearly five decades, I hope to pass on what I have learned to adoptees, parents, and professionals working in the field, so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
I believe it should be a basic civil and human right for every single adult adoptee to have access on request to their original birth certificate (OBC) and adoption file. Here in Ireland (which became my adopted home in September 2020), advocates for the rights of adoptees have fought long and hard for this to become a reality. Finally, on 30 June 2022, the Birth Information and Tracing Act 2022 was signed into law. On 3 October 2022, the brand new Information and Tracing Services, established under the landmark Act, was officially launched.
My advice to fellow adoptees who are considering, or have already embarked on the search and reunion process, is to remember that ‘making contact’ with your birth mother or father (and/or other members of your biological family) doesn’t have to involve a face-to-face meeting. Perhaps you’ll only be comfortable exchanging info and photos via email initially. Maybe after a while, you’ll be open to chatting on the phone or via a video call. And eventually, you may be prepared to meet in person. Don’t rush it. Give each other the time and space needed to digest information and process feelings. Allow things to unfold and evolve organically. Set healthy boundaries. There will be ups, there will be downs. But ultimately you, the adoptee, will have a far better sense of who you are, and your place in this world. I firmly believe we are all here for a reason.
My advice to all adoptive parents is to seek out a professional for your child to speak to during their formative years. Someone who specialises in dealing with adoptees, and the unique psychological and emotional challenges we face. Someone with a strong grasp of pre- and perinatal psychology, and how it relates to ensuing problems with attachment, bonding, and abandonment issues – as uniquely experienced by adoptees. Someone with proper training in treating the trauma associated with the primal wound, the ghost-kingdom, genealogical bewilderment, mirror loss, and identity issues – again, as uniquely experienced by adoptees. Normal family psychologists and school counsellors and clergymen are not qualified to deal with these adoption-specific issues.
This website contains a vast repository of information regarding not only adoption, but also my writing/publishing process. I hope it answers a lot of your questions, and piques your interest enough to read my book in its entirety.
Umbilicus is available on six continents in both ebook and paperback format. It will appeal to readers of all ages who enjoy Young Adult (YA) realistic fiction, particularly those involved or interested in the adoption experience.