Adoptee Fantasies

I think my birth family may live in a castle.

I think my birth family may live in a castle.

All children have a secret place where they can fantasize about having better parents when they are disillusioned with their own. Freud called this the family romance. However, when the non-adopted child later learns and accepts the fact that his parents have both positive and negative characteristics, the fantasy dissipates.
It is not that simple for the adopted child. The adoptee really does have another set of parents out there somewhere. The adoptee’s fantasies begin when he is told that he is adopted and are both positive and negative.
You may not be aware that your child fantasizes like this, and perhaps not all adopted children do, but listen to the words of adoption specialists Drs. Brodzinsky and Schecter in Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self: “In our experience, all adoptees engage in a search process. It may not be a literal search, but it is a meaningful search nonetheless. It begins when the child first asks, ‘Why did it happen? Who are they? Where are they now?”
I learned this concept quite surprisingly one day while caring for my two-year-old twin grandsons. Whenever I have the privilege of spending a day with them, they often bring up the names of all the people in their extended family. Their minds turn often to those who love them. “Papau? Sheia? Koa? Mimi? Gompa?” they ask, ask if to say, “Where are they now? What are they doing?” My grandsons have no trouble blending the two sides of their extended family. To them, there are no walls of preference, only people who love them and whom they love.
So it is with the adopted child. Somewhere, deep within her heart, are the questions, “Where is my birth mother right now? Where is my birth father? I wonder what they are doing.”
It is vital to keep in mind that there is no “we and they” mentality in the adopted child’s world. Birth parents have always been and will always be a part of her world, whether acknowledged or not. It is we, the adults, who sometimes erect walls of competitiveness and possessiveness in relating to our child.
I realize this is difficult information for some parents of closed and semi-closed adoptions. You may find it threatening to open conversations about the birth family. However, it is essential if you are to be in tune with your child’s secret world.

A Definition of Fantasy
What is adoption fantasy anyway? Some synonyms for fantasy are:
• imagination
• originality
• creativity
• image
• conception
• daydream
• illusion
• shadow
• haunting fear
• nightmare
Adoption fantasies are not bad. They are simply dreams adopted children and adults build within their hearts to ease the painful losses of adoption. Adoptees need not belittle themselves for having them, for without them the pain might have been too great, the burden of grief too heavy. In many ways, fantasies are a gift to the adoptee because
they help her to survive.

9 comments

  • Thank you SO much for sharing these thoughts, feelings and insights for us adoptive parents and the adopted children that we want to help and understand so badly…I am so grateful for this website and all of you who share~My daughter is 15 and Jesus is walking with us down this road…May Jesus walk with all of you~He wants to… ❤

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    • Terry….you have no idea what an encouragement you are to me, and I’m sure to the others that have shared on this blog. Right now I’m writing a chapter for my new book on adoptee fantasies and to hear that this is helpful information for adoptive parents is encouragement plus!
      How wonderful that your daughter is walking with Jesus….and you! Not every parent of a teen can say that.
      Please stay connected. We value your perspective and input.

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  • “Oh, tell me of my Mother. Is she roaming the skies? I’ve been dreaming all about her, and awoke with tearful eyes. She was bending o’er my pillow in a deep and earnest prayer, and her voice was like the breathing of the soft summer air. Is the world so full of pain that she will not come again like a sunbeam on the rain? Oh, tell me of my mother. Does she know I’m here alone? Where have my early friends gone and my dearest memories flown? Oh, tell me of my mother.” —Stephen Collins Foster, 1861
    Thanks for asking. I was an only child. I internalized my fantasies and emotions when thinking about my birth mother because there was nobody there to share my experiences. Her face was never in focus in my dreams but I noticed that she had brown hair like me. The power of prayer had a calming effect on me and was helpful for rationalizing her mysterious absence. I always thought of myself as a person of good character; for that reason I had positive thoughts about her as a talented person and assumed she was a good person of substance.

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    • Good morning, Judith,
      Your adoptee fantasies were so clear and real. I wonder if most adoptees experience fantasy that way. I wasn’t as conscious of what was going on inside me. I’d love to hear from other adoptees about this!
      Tell us about your prayers, Judith? How old were you when you remember praying? I remember praying, too, but my prayers were so simple…”God, please bless momma, daddy, and kitty.”
      I went to your site yesterday and saw your beautifully published book, laying on a silver tray and coffee set. So elegant. Would that be representative of how you envisioned your birth mother?

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      • Thank you for asking about prayer. Revealing our personal thoughts to others in public raises many poignant feelings because the crushing emotional pain of life’s altered trajectory for many adoptees compresses the soul and is so formidable that it can only be shared with God. When I was a child and uncertain of my fate I prayed for personal guidance, strength, understanding and intelligence and when I was in my lowest emotional states of mind, and there was no one there to help me overcome distress or discouragement, I found it therapeutic to direct my accepted wisdom to God. Learning to pray is one of my earliest childhood memories. My adoptive mother was a nun before she married. She taught me to believe in the power of prayer. “God will answer your prayers, if your thoughts are pure and sincere and your ideas have merit. If you follow the path God has provided for you, you will find real happiness, peace, and freedom, the universal goals of life.” We attended early mass together every day of the year. I attended Catholic schools K-12. My birth mother wanted nothing to do with me until the day she had a miraculous vision from God that altered her beliefs and changed her life. She breathed an enormous sigh of relief and smiled toward heaven as the awful burden of guilt and the shackles of secrecy were removed from her shoulders. I had aways been inspired by stories of the blind and crippled who, by accepting a spiritual faith in Christ, were able to lay down their crutches and be healed. As mother and daughter we had suffered from the same cerebral wounds, numbness, and sentiments of penitence; enduring these injuries and suffering in silence is what we habitually had in common. Our conciliation took place in a church; it was my turn to raise my hands to the heavens and proclaim the miraculous healing of my lifelong primal wounds. Our spiritual relationship was finally resolved in our private relationship with God. Her unconditionally accepting me as her daughter generated delightful feelings of distinction and worthiness. The sacred benedictions we shared helped to mend our wounded hearts and restore our faith in God. Prayer is still an important part of my life. I belong to a prayer group that responds to requests for healing and relief from suffering.

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        • What an awesome testimony, Judith! It is one that every adoptee I know would like to have.
          So, from your words, it must be that you don’t believe that adoption loss produces an irreparable wound? Both you and your birthmother found healing, from one another and ultimately from God?

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        • Hi Judith, I thought I replied to your post but apparently it didn’t register. What a lovely testimony–one we would all love to have. I am so happy for you that there was reconciliation with your birth mother that led to healing from God for both of you. You probably already know that doesn’t happen for most adoptees. How would you pray for those that are rejected?

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  • I agree that fantasies are a gift to adoptees because they help us to survive by creating positive self-images that aid in resolving our lack of a self-identity. When I was a child I associated the birth mother I had never known with music. On Sunday mornings when classical music was playing on the radio I visualized her in London or Paris quietly sitting in the back of a large orchestra playing the violin. The image I had of her was very peaceful and relaxing. She wore a black dress and looked a little bit like me but older. My favorite song as a child was “Oh! Tell me of My Mother” by Stephen Collins Foster. I was mesmerized by the lyrics and often cried myself to sleep with the words to the song ringing in my head and heart.

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    • Hi Judith, You swept me right up into your fantasy with your words. Love it. Having music prompt birth mother fantasy is new to me. I wonder why your mother had a black dress on. Just a curiosity that came as I read your story. Can you tell us the words of the song you loved?
      And then you cried yourself to sleep? Oh,sweet girl. Did your mama know? Did anyone comfort you?

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