Open adoption narrative : snapshot into adoptees' adoptive and birth mother relationships : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Research on the open adoption practice and its effects has received little attention within Aotearoa New Zealand. Currently, there is a conspicuous gap, a missing voice, including mine, that does not account for adoptees lived experiences within the open system. There is very little understanding as to what the everyday ordinariness of navigating the boundary of normal and difference is like for open adoptees. The aim of this research was to bring open adoptees voices together to understand how open adoptees make sense of the complexities within our adoptive and birth mother relationships and making sense of having two mothers, within a space that did not question or challenge their knowledge of their experiences nor require them to explain their differences. Five participants volunteered to participate in conversational-style interviews that focussed on the lived experiences of open adoptees’ adoptive and birth mother relationships. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed using Riessman’s (1993) narrative inquiry method of representation. Drawing from feminist standpoint epistemology and narrative inquiry, the analysis stories the participants’ narratives of their negotiation of their adoptive and birth mother relationships and their lived experiences of open adoption. What is represented is a collective narrative to bring our voice to the call for changes to the Aotearoa New Zealand adoption legislation reform movement. What emerged from participants’ narratives was that they are contextualised through a generic story that positions us as grateful, and therefore responsible, in a storyline of our rescue and we embody the burden of the secret of our circumstances. The narrative produced through the analysis attends to the storylines that bring about an understanding of our need to renegotiate the meaning of openness, by recognising the loss and the pain of living within structural (the Act) and sociocultural (good and bad mother) power relations. What we ask is that this voice is heard and becomes part of the movement for social and political transformation where belonging and connection can become possible.