Adoption stories: From adoptee to adoptive parent

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Image by ha11ok from Pixabay

Adoption is complicated and every story is unique which is one of the reasons why I started the magazine so that those thinking about it could get a realistic picture of some of the issues.

This article is written by Jane Foers who shares her journey from adoptee, to adopter and therapist. She’s a therapeutic coach and counsellor.

From adoptee to adoptive parent and counsellor

My adoption in 1970 had a familiar backdrop – I was the result of a one-night stand and adopted after being in foster care for two months.  My adoptive parents already had an older (adopted) daughter. 

Apparently, I was the perfect baby who never cried. However, our adoptions caused a generational rift as my paternal grandparents said my parents were ‘bringing up someone else’s child’. 

My sister and adoptive mother had a very turbulent relationship which worsened as my sister entered her teenage years.  My sister was the rebel; I was the peacemaker.  I became anxious that my sister would leave home and can clearly remember one day when I was a teenager, my mother asking me “I hope you’re not going to go and look for your birth records are you?”

My answer was ‘Of course not’ as like lots of adoptees, I didn’t want to upset her.  I didn’t give a thought to my own curiosities around my adoption.

Fast forward to my older teenage years and work. I befriended people easily and spread myself thinly.  I never ruffled feathers and didn’t speak my mind.  It had been instilled into me that sex outside marriage was wrong.  My sister explained the irony of this to me – that we were both the product of sex outside marriage, yet our mother was incredibly moralistic about this. 

I didn’t attend university and flitted from job to job, always feeling unsettled after a while.  I married in my late 20s and we decided to start a family but after tests, required infertility treatment.  Around that time I started to experience back problems and just short of starting the first course of IVF, my back problem worsened. 

I was advised to stop the IVF.

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Image by Sergio Carabajal from Pixabay

Navigating infertility

Over time, I underwent two surgeries and became both anxious about using my back and low in mood as I had to rely on others for help.   I resembled a piece of cardboard mentally and physically.  I was referred to counselling and started to become interested in the mind/body connection.   Eventually, I decided to complete the first counselling skills courses and then obtained a job in mental health. 

A decade later, I started thinking about starting a family again and the option that we could adopt. I wasn’t sure why this hadn’t been something I had considered before. Looking back I think we were swept along by the diagnosis of infertility and straight into IVF.   I now felt that adoption was some kind of ‘destiny’ and for the first time, I weirdly felt I was doing something within my control.   

Adopting as an adoptee

At our first introductory meeting with Social Services, we were told how children waiting for adoption had experienced loss and separation alongside possible abuse, trauma and/or neglect – a very different landscape to my own adoption.

Quite rightly, our application was a long and rigorous process. I was asked to explore my own adoption and for the first time felt I could be honest with someone who didn’t know my family. It was like therapy.  Then my father died and we were advised to take a break.  Eventually, we were approved and matched with a 10-month-old boy.

After the introductory week with the foster carers, we brought him home and from that day on it was like he had always been with us.  Initially, I felt like a fish out of water at the local playgroup. I befriended the grandparents to avoid talk of breastfeeding and new baby stories.  I loved the special adoption playgroups as I found I could relax and connect easily with the other adoptive parents.

My son has a life storybook and quite a lot of information about his birth family alongside indirect contact with his birth mother.  We also meet up with one of his birth siblings and he has a good age-appropriate understanding of his story. 

It will be for him to decide if he wants to make contact with his birth family.  I have and always will discuss his adoption openly with him and do not ever want him to be worried about our feelings should he wish to contact his birth family or talk about them.

Training to be a counsellor

I decided to continue with my counselling training and between lockdowns, we learnt about the many therapeutic models, a lot of which had a focus on childhood.  I began to join the dots about myself.

l started to feel differently towards my adoptive mother like she didn’t have the same level of control over me anymore.  I began gentle somatic work and felt it helped to release deep-rooted feelings (I had always been someone who never cried or expressed emotion easily). 

A huge shift for me was realising that ‘The Body (does indeed) Keep the Score’. I developed a better understanding of my adoptive mother’s upbringing which had been difficult.  She had lost her first child to a hereditary disorder and my understanding is that she was encouraged to ‘get on’ with her life and (as in those days) not offered any emotional support.

After completing my counselling training I worked for a couple of local charities in mental health and the LBTQ sector and more recently, have trained to become an alcohol-free coach for ‘grey area drinkers’.

Raft Coaching

I’ve worked with clients who have had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and who have disclosed something about adoption in their lives.  They described how they used alcohol to help fill a void,  drinking to cover feelings of loss, loneliness, shame, and abandonment. I believe adoption and alcohol are often very intertwined.

I’ve also completed training to become an adoption support counsellor and offer counselling and coaching to adoptees (over 18), adoptive parents, and birth parents. 

Adoption is complex and multi-faceted. It is something that can lay dormant and then appear at different points in a person’s life and I believe there is no one right time for counselling.  At times, I have felt like banging my head against a brick wall when adoptees (including my son) are described as ‘lucky’ …

I work as an integrative counsellor and bring different approaches to my work. Each client has their own unique and different experiences, thoughts, and beliefs about adoption. However, I believe the most important thing for any therapeutic relationship is that the therapist ‘gets it’. That they have an understanding of the client’s inner world and can help them explore not only themselves but also issues that may be difficult to discuss with family and friends because of the very nature of adoption.

You can find out about my services on my website, on the Counselling Directory website under “Find a therapist”, or drop me an email at remoteadoptionfocusedtherapy@gmail.com or remoteaftherapy@gmail.com.

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Image by Hans from Pixabay


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