November is Adoption Awareness Month. As an Adoptee and Birth Mother, I can talk forever about this, so lets talk again. Remembering that it doesn’t matter if you are an adoptive parent, birth parent, know an adoptee, read a book, or anything else, unless you are actually an adoptee, you will never truly understand. So please for the love of all that is holy, stop telling Adoptees how to feel, that their feelings are wrong, that they are over reacting, or anything else like that. Adoptees have every right to feel everything they feel, all the conflicting, hard to understand feelings, they are all valid. Just because you dont understand something, does not make their feelings wrong.
So lets talk about belonging. Its a strange thing. We simultaneously belong to multiple families, yet dont fully belong to any. We are forever an option. In our adoptive families we struggle to belong, we dont look like anyone, we dont have the same mannerisms, traits, we struggle to fit in and blend in with our families. We notice all the questioning looks we get by people trying to figure out our connections to each other. We have even had to deal with strangers comments and questions. Our adoptions are constantly pointed out to us, when people compare looks, especially at family events. We are constantly referred to as the “adopted children”. When we go to the doctors and asked for medical history, there is a big blank spot, or adoption is simply written there. In school its pointed out every time we are asked to do a family tree, learning about genes and asked to go back in our family tree with eye colour, hair colour and such. We are constantly asked if we will ever look for our families, then guilted as soon as we decided to do it. We are asked what its like to grow up in a home with strangers. We are referred to as being “chosen” or “picked out”. People ask us how much we cost for our parents to ‘buy’ us. When people do family trees there is constantly a symbol next to our names for adoption. More times than people care to admit, adopted children are placed for adoption again because they didn’t “fit into the family”, or some other issues came to the surface. We are considered an option. We are told we will be sent back. When we get in trouble, we are told in must be in our genes and what a burden it must be for our families to deal with us.
Then if and when we are able to find birth families, we are treated an as option. We have to wait to see if our birth families will accept us or reject us, again. Always an option. IF we do get accepted, we rarely ever fully get accepted. Our lives before they met us dont matter because they never knew us. We are never truly the first born, second born, third , or last born, because we weren’t there. When people talk we are separated in speech, like “my kids and you” or “my boys and you” its always “them and you”. There is always a subtle separation in speech. We are told to wait till kids are older to be told about us. We are told to wait because older generations can’t hear about us right now. We are kept secret from some members of the family. We are told to wait till their kids are fully grown before they will consider spending holidays with us. We are told they have their own traditions and things they love, and they won’t grow and evolve those things to include us. We are told that to involve us in traditions would be the same thing to them as throwing away years of family traditions with ‘their family’. Always the separation in speech. Never fully accepted. We aren’t considered ‘close family’ when it comes to family events, birthdays or holidays. We are told that people need time to adjust to our existence. We are told that people that are supposed to be our family need time to figure out if they want to ‘try to be friends and see where that goes’, instead of truly accepting that we are family and include us as such and work towards building relationships that way as sister/brother/cousin/son/daughter or whichever it is. We are always treated as an option. Someone that belongs, but not fully. We are welcome, as long as we stay in our little corner over there, and dont mess with their family setting and traditions. If we dont fit in just right, we are again abandoned, because we will forever be an option for people. An option they can walk away from whenever a single issue arises. We constantly walk on egg shells out of fear of being abandoned again. Many times adoption reunions fall apart after a couple years.
We belong to multiple families, yet not fully and truly. Its a weird sense of belonging, being on the outside looking in, longing for acceptance, longing for connection, feeling at home, being surrounded by family, being loved and accepted, and still feeling alone.