Different Needs

The Curly Haired Thunderbolt and her sister were separated in seconds.

Taken from their mother’s side, and placed immediately into separate arms, driven in separate cars, and handed over to separate carers.  In one moment, their fates were sealed.

‘Different Needs’, it says in the records.

So much heartache, pain and trauma held in one, sharp edged decision. A wound so raw that no glue, no stitching, and no apology will ever touch it. Sibling bonds, cut with a knife.

Successive decisions tear them further and further apart. Apart in circumstance: adoption for one, care for the other. Apart in distance: one in her hometown, the other sent to unfamiliar far flung lands. Apart in experience: one to maintain links with family, culture, and roots, and one to be brought up with new traditions, new ways, amongst strangers. Apart in law: one to keep her name, one forced to change it by the thick wedge of legislation. Apart in trauma: both to grow up in the constant insecurity and pressure of separation. ‘Different Needs’.

So many questions that burn on our lips and our minds alongside the discord that haunts like an angry shadow at the very center of her being.  I search and unpick the disordered records over and over – but no reason, no justification can be found; nothing that reveals the nature of these ‘Different Needs’. The notes, the reports, the reviews, the different departments, the protocols, the risk assessments, the letterbox, the data protection – none of which list or identify any ‘Different Needs’. None of which find alternative ways to address them. Around one judicial recommendation that the girls be kept together ‘at all costs’, continuing pages unfold incomprehensible, unjustified contradiction from faceless professionals who fought to this decision to keep them apart.

In my search, I fail to find the heart amid the reams of paperwork. There is no recognition that the decisions made describe and control real lives, real people, real relationships. No sense that they hold fragile vulnerability, and laughter, and tears, and futures in their grip; directing and shaping the lives of two sisters who bore no part in the circumstances nor the decisions that sliced them apart, but bear the whole of the brunt of its effects for ever.

We can make no change to the past. Our only influence is the now, in how we navigate the situation to find love and sisterhood around the circumstances; in spite of them.  Make our own way through the maze of this impossible situation to make it somehow … possible.

In the everyday we speak of her as if she is close-by.  We bring her into our thoughts and plans and decisions in the ways she should rightly be. We acknowledge but override the fractures in our family with little heed for the rules, and we spend our precious time together building up those little things that make up the ordinary everyday life of sisters; baking, doing our hair, making, sharing. Shining out from these wonderful times are the clear as day ‘Shared Needs’ that no one took the time to consider or hold dear when it mattered most.

The more we look, the more we see that the only ‘Different Needs’ to be found are those dictated by the basic needs of the sisters, and the system that divided them. It is time for change to come.

Further reading: Siblings Together 

This post is linked to #WASO: weekly adoption shout out over at Adoption Social

Adoption: Loss and change

What has she lost in the short course of her life?

- Her people:

Severed not simply from family and close ones, but from the connections she had to the web of her whole community.  Vaporized in a heartbeat, leaving a bottomless and profound grief that sits alongside the acid sting of whole-scale rejection.   Forsaken and discarded by the people she loved:  ”I’m rubbish.” she says.

- Her things:

Torn from all that was familiar and reassuring.  Her favourite armchair, the mints in the dish, the hiding place in the garden, the hum of the boiler, the crack on the ceiling, her most precious teddy.  Every aspect of the personal landscape that etches into a child’s mind, wrenched away like a thief in the night: “I don’t care anyway.” she says.

- Her culture, her sense of belonging.

Cut off from everything that reflected a sense of place back to her. Her accent, her habits, her mores, her customs her traditions, the taste of a shepherd’s pie, all came suddenly to an end, leaving her an outsider to her own life: “I don’t know what you mean.” she says.

- Her means to share experiences.

Cut off from all her stories and every event that ever happened, she found herself pushed into isolation.  With no common ground, no memory lane, she became a mystery to herself, with no one to answer questions about: how she got her name, her first word, what happened the day she was born, her close encounter with a hedgehog: “You just don’t get it.” she says.

- Her willingness to trust.

As we dare to pick apart the loss, we uncover a shame that infiltrates her very sense of self.  In doubting her own self worth, she also questions the legitimacy of anyone to care for her. Fear thwarts the intimacy that trust demands, and mistakes it for control and blame: “I am just a bad baby.” she says.

- Her openness to love and be loved

Every meaningful intimate relationship and connection she ever made resulted in neglect, abuse, and – eventually – abandonment.  Her willingness to trust, to be cared for and helped, was decimated; replaced with a pain that keeps her pushing hard at arms length from the very love and security that would help her move forward. “I don’t need you.” she says.

And then – as if this isn’t enough – comes the final blow; a total lack of understanding from a society that celebrates adoption with a blindness that negates and opens old wounds time and time again: “You are lucky Mumdrah chose you”, society says.

At the moment she joined me, she lost Everything.

CHT’s adoption song of loss and trust