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.
November is Adoption Awareness Month. As an Adoptee and Birth Mother, I have a lot to say on the subject. This is however a subject that only Adoptees can truly understand. It doesn’t matter if you are an adoptive parent, birth parent, know an adoptee, read an adoption book, or anything else, unless you are an adoptee, you will never really understand. And every adoptees journey is so different.
Being an adoptee is complicated. We are constantly told that we should be grateful, feel lucky, and be happy that we were “saved” or “chosen”. And here’s the thing, we can feel grateful, we can feel lucky, we can be happy with the life we did get, we can love our life, we can love our family, and at the same time we can still feel angry, hurt, sad, abandoned, long for a biological connection, we can mourn for a life we never had, mourn for the loss of all that could have been or maybe even should have been. And we can experience all of these emotions at once, and not have it take away from feeling grateful, or happy, or hurt, or abandoned. It is so hard to put into words that will ever truly explain what it is like to be an adoptee. To live with such drastically different feelings conflicting with each other all the time.
I’ve lived my life with people telling me how I should feel. Telling me my feelings are wrong if they have ever been anything other than grateful. I’ve had people be mad at my existence.
I’ve been called selfish and ungrateful, rude and mean, for wanting to find my birth family.
I’ve even been called selfish for wanting to then spend time with the people I found after spending my entire life apart from them.
I’ve been told I was never wanted and that they never wanted to ‘waste’ a name on me when I was born.
I’ve been called a home wrecker, intruder, and worse, because I found my birth family.
I’ve had people separate me from “real” family, and put in a little corner off on my own.
I’ve even been told I am too old. When I found who I believed was my birth father, thats what he said to me. This man believed I was his daughter right from the start and even tried to find me when I was 2 years old so he could fight for custody of me. But then when I was almost 28 years old, I found him. And he didn’t want anything to do with me. One of the many reasons he gave me, my age. He said I was too old now. He said I took to long, and I was too old now, and none of it mattered, and I was too old to celebrate anything, too old to care, too old to start building a relationship. He was so angry at me that I took too long to find him. He had other choice words too say to me over the years, but anyway, that was the first time someone complained about my age, used my age against me, told me i’m “too old” for something, but it wouldn’t be the last time. Throughout my journey other people have told me the same thing and used my age against me for various reason.
I’ve mourned the death of a man I believed was my birth father, just to find out years later he wasn’t.
I could go on and on about the things said to me. The way people treat me as an after thought, as an option, mad at my existence, and more.
But here’s what Adoption gave me, besides trauma, abandonment issues, heartbreak and more, it gave me a beautiful family that has loved me so fiercely. It gave me two parents, that at 36 years old I can honestly say they have always been there for me, never missed a holiday, from Valentines Day to Christmas, never missed a birthday, never missed a school event, been there for every milestone in my life, the birth of each of my children, they were there and visiting the hospital every single day I was in there. They have been there for each of my Mother Days, especially my first after my oldest son was born, which I couldn’t have gotten through without them. They even celebrate my wedding anniversary. Always there for me. And in turn they have always been there for my kids. Every birthday, every holiday, every school performance, every event at school, they were there. I’ve lost count of the amount of cakes my mom has baked with my daughter every time she says its a dolls birthday, or a stuffed animals birthday, it doesn’t matter, my mom is there to celebrate with her and make it special. Family trips all together. When my kids were/are sick, my parents were/are the first people I called, and my Dad would sit up with me during the night and the kids while they had croup, or an ear infection or whatever, my parents were there. Because of the parents I got, I was able to live in Kenya. The people I met there, amazing friends that have become family. Not to mention I met my oldest sons birth father there. Without living there, I never would have met him and had my son. And I can’t imagine a life without him. And my husband, who I met through a cousin on my Moms side. And now I have 3 more beautiful children, and an amazing man in my life. And I wouldn’t have had them, met all the people I have, lived in all the places I have, done all the traveling I did, if life hadn’t put me down another path, if someone else didn’t make one of the biggest decisions in life for me, a choice I didn’t make or was given a say in. And I am so incredibly grateful the life I have had so far, the people I have met, my family, my friends, my husband and my four kids. There is no way I could wish that away. But having said all that, I still mourn for what never was. I still feel sadness over missing out on years with so many other people. Its a complicated thing. It doesn’t make sense. And it is so hard to mourn for something that you never even had. But all while feeling grateful and loving the life you did have. So I dont know what else to say in this ramble. Other than its Adoption Awareness Month, and being an adoptee is complicated, amazing, beautiful, trauma filled, beautiful, and every other mixed emotions.When an adoptee tries to explain their story, share their complicated conflicting emotions, dont try to correct them, dont tell them how they should feel. Let adoptees feel what they feel, and not be shamed for it. Listen to what adoptees have to say, even if you dont understand it.