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Search and Reunion: Clowns, Quilts, and Burns, Oh My!

Part 2: Quilts


Generated by Chat - GPT using prompts by Becca Flatt.



In this series of posts, I started telling my story in my teens and early 20s because, just like many adoptees, my emotions, thoughts, and experiences of developmental trauma have been dismissed as unreal.


“You were such a happy child.”


No, I was a reflection of what you required me to be to access your love and care.


It’s so easy to dismiss early childhood struggles because we don't believe children when they reflect truths that we don't want to face. 


Its easier to teach a child to hide their truth than it is for adults to face down their shit.  When a child's response to trauma aligns with societal expectations rather than their inner experiences, the system rejoices. Adoptive parents, adoption professionals, advocates for adoption, and anti-abortion advocates pat themselves on the back for a job well done instead of listening to the child’s pleas for a safe place to thrash in the trauma. These childhood pleas go unanswered, and the “Happy” adoptee grows into an adult like me, setting fire to the perceptions of ourselves pushed on us by others. 


We often hear the “but you were so happy,” which is our signal to flatten ourselves. My childhood had happy parts, but the foundation was rubble. People don't get to use my happy memories as a weapon against me. 


This explains why searching and reunion is such a hard time for adoptees. We are forced, sometimes from infancy, to flatten our inner complexities to good/bad, right/wrong, saved/savior, happy/grateful. There has been no room for grief.  There is no room for the truth of our traumatized little selves to thrash about in pain while our world is held together around us by safe adults. 


When we start what the adoption world knows as search and reunion, we bring our inner world outside ourselves. We are inviting our familial, community, and support systems into what it means to be us. However, when we have never been allowed to grieve, search becomes a type of sharp edge that lances the festering wound of our adoption trauma. 


Suddenly, we are face to face with our little selves; the ones we were taught were too much for the adults around us. Search is the place where our developmental trauma becomes concentrated. Our people may not understand why we are quick to anger, why we are obsessively scanning DNA results, why we are uncontrollably crying, pacing, freezing, fighting, oversleeping, overeating, not sleeping for days at a time, not eating at all, isolating, wailing, and battling demons no one else can seem to see or understand unless they share parts of our origin story. 


With that, I’ll introduce you to my Quilt. My late birth-grandma made it. It depicts Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. For my entire childhood, I clung to this blanket and everything Oz-related. I’ve spent my whole life making meaning of physical and metaphorical quilts. I’ve realized there is no access to the truth beyond my making because someone took a seam ripper to my family and identity. It’s now my job to put us back together. A job that should never have been given to me in the first place.


To be continued…

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