Ignorance is Bliss. Is it? It can be, I suppose . . . for a time.
Growing up, my ignorance regarding the identity of my birthparents seemed okay. It left me room to imagine. I used to imagine that maybe I would just see her on the street one day, we would cross paths, and I would know she was my birthmom. I imagined her as pretty, but faceless. I can’t remember any particular features I had in my mind when I tried to imagine her. I just thought she was probably sweet and pretty. The non-identifying information reported my mother as being interested in dance as a hobby. I felt connected to her because I loved to dance, too. I even imagined that she went to the University of Illinois (because I was born in Champaign, IL), and I imagined that she might have even been an Illinette. Turns out I was right about where she attended college.
My thoughts rarely wandered to my birthdad in those early days. The non-identifying information told me he was interested in aviation. I was afraid to fly. Maybe I didn’t feel connected to him because of that–not to mention that fact that he didn’t carry me in his tummy for nine months. His outside features (height, weight, hair color, eye color) were listed in my non-identifying information, but the only detail that described his personality was aviation as a hobby. I was ignorant about the kind of man he was. I was told that they were not financially ready to get married when they had me, so I kind of pictured him as a young, loving, scared boy. I was Ignorant. Admittedly, when I did start flying more regularly as an adult, I looked carefully at the pilots each time–searching their faces to see . . . ? I don’t know what I thought I would see. That I would see myself in his face?
Another layer of my ignorance surrounds my mother carrying me in her tummy, the circumstances surrounding my conception, my gestation, my delivery, my foster care (for three days–I think), and more. My ignorance ends to some degree once my parents got me (when I was 7 days old). Then, they have memories and stories to tell of their own about the three of us; we started making memories together as a family. But in those days, they were taught that ignorance was bliss for them too. They knew little to nothing about nine months plus seven days of my life.
No. That’s not bliss, I argue. That’s ignorance.
It’s medically ignorant. Genetics play a part in a person’s lifetime health. It’s not bliss to be ignorant about what you may face as you age. You yourself want to know what family genes you carry that predispose you to heart conditions, immune system compromises, cancer, or even just where you will tend to gain weight as you age, don’t you?
Well-meaning individuals have said to me–the adoptee, “I could never adopt . . . how do you know what you’re getting? I don’t think I’d like that” I always feel like I’m out of a grab bag when people say that. Actually, I’ve only had two people say that to me. But, it didn’t give me a good feeling; it made me feel like a mutt, and it made me want to defend Naika.
It’s emotionally ignorant. Spending my life separated from and ignorant of my birth family and then trying to reunite without any shared experiences was not bliss. We lived ignorant of each other for almost four decades; how to blend experiences, lives, forge relationships now, . . . how? I have six half-siblings who cannot (or will not) integrate their lives into mine. Ignorance of each other put us here. Had I known they only lived 45 minutes away, or 2.5 hours away . . . things could have been different. The adoption community handles this so differently now; truth so often reigns.
My Birthparents’ Ignorance.
Oh, what they must have gone through. Can you imagine the pits in their stomachs? It was the fall of 1969 when I was conceived. They were both seniors at the University of Illinois–on track to graduate. In those days, having a baby before marriage carried such a different weight than it does now. They hid it. They hid everything. They hid it all very well–as far as they knew. And, probably, based on the history of how birthparents and adoptive parents were educated in those days–they believed and were told ignorance would be bliss for them.
But, has it been bliss? Has it been best for them to not have any knowledge of me since shortly after I was born? I can’t answer for them. I can read what other birthparents say and write. I find that a majority of them agonize over not knowing what ever happened to their baby. Others talk and write about burying their pain of not knowing so deeply–just to emotionally and physically survive the loss.
And, to add to it, my birthparents’ did not allow their family members to help them carry their weight. They kept them ignorant of me, also. What a big scary secret to keep for a lifetime.
Which leads me to . . . The Truth Will Set You Free
Every one has secrets–things they would prefer others did not know or find out–including me. But at some point, we face our Maker, and He knows what is true already–right down to our core; giving over our secrets to Him brings healing and peace. So, I ache alongside those who carry secrets for so long–for too long. Secrets are scary and heavy, and they chase us around.
Truth for the Adoptees.
Today, so many adoptees grow up with more knowledge of their beginnings in life–who their birthparents are, knowledge of and communication with their birth siblings, their ongoing medical information; and some even spend time blending their lives with their birth family little by little. The adoption community is shifting from “ignorance is bliss” to “the truth will set you free.” While none of this goes along seamlessly, there is freedom from ignorance. Blanks are filled in for these adoptees. No more imagining or wondering is needed for the adoptee when he/she has pictures of his beginnings. Pictures of the hospital where he was born. Pictures of extended birth family members (grandmas, grandpas, siblings). Letters from birth parents expressing themselves to the child they are placing for adoption. Life is not without heartache; therefore, embracing the truth of a birth family is much like embracing the truth of any family. Know them as they are–the good, the bad, and the ugly. But know them; they are real people.
Truth for the Birthparents.
Do you know today women who are facing an unexpected pregnancy report they cannot fathom placing their baby for adoption unless they can have some contact with the child over time? The truth will set you free, dear mother. Running to hide from the situation puts us in a place of captivity. Freedom asks us to embrace the truth of the pregnancy, the baby, and the biological relationships included.
Captivity. That’s an interesting word. Those who will not acknowledge me as a person in their lives have placed me in captivity; they would prefer that I remain locked up in their closet. Who is free? Neither of us. They have a closet door they are trying desperately to keep shut, and I just want to open the door–because it turns out, I am alive.
This doesn’t seem like bliss.
Full circle. Some of my birth family members choose to remain in ignorance about me and my family despite my requests to be known and to know them. So, much like I did as a young person, they have now developed their own stories about me. They have described me as “sinister,” and “setting out to do as much damage as I can,” and “batting my teary eyes as I tell my tantalizing story . . . ” (some words might not be exactly the ones they used in their communication–but their meaning is in tact.) For now, they are captive to their imaginations of what I must be like.
Oh, how I wish the truth would set us all free.