gallery Dear Adoption, Will You Ever Go Away?


Dear Adoption, Will you ever go away?

Will I ever out grow you? If I search and find, will I be unadopted at last? What about when I’m 85? Will I no longer identify as “adopted” then?

My personal experience says the answer is “No”. Now instead of being the adopted girl, I am an adopted adult. It’s less stigmatizing, and I can conceal it if I want, but it’s always there, lurking inside my soul, peeking through my eyes and pressing an ear to the side of my mind as I continue to experience the world. It’s like in cartoons when the character has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Adoption, Why do you try to slip in with reminders and advice about how to live my life? Adoption or “Adoptism”, as I like to call it, you send me mixed messages all the time, and it can be pretty annoying.

This lurking is a good and bad thing. It manifests in my compassion for homeless animals, (and occasionally plants). However, it makes donating material possessions I no longer need a more intense task. Giving something to Goodwill, for example is all well and fine, but what if the old, pilled up sweater or plastic chicken statue I cast off is misused or uncared for by the next owner?

Adoptism you give me a magnified appreciation for all life, but when my children were born and for the first few weeks when I held them, I realized the depth of their dependency on me. I was profoundly sad for children who are not allowed to be held close by their birth parents and for any new parents who are not able to hold their babies at birth, but how privileged I was!

When I searched and found my birth family I felt liberated from your manipulative grasp in a lot of ways. I had many questions answered, (and then some!). I built great relationships with siblings, cousins and fellow adoptees during this time. In a way I “beat the system”, because I accomplished something that was perceived as against the odds. I felt a greater awareness and had more insight, but I wasn’t any less adopted. I became simply an adoptee with more knowledge.

Searching, finding and reuniting did reduce my shame and embarrassment about my adoption status. Growing up, I hated you, Adoption. No story book about chosen babies or fond memories my adoptive parents shared with me could erase my feelings. I intuitively knew not to tell kids at school, church or anywhere because peers would mercilessly tease the kid who had no parents, weird parents or changed-up parents. A parental re-boot in the 1960s and 70s was not cool. I also felt shame because I knew other people were not as fortunate as I was as far as family life goes. I had a great home, a dog, education opportunities, grandmas who loved and spoiled me, etc. Not all children of adoption have that. (Not all children have this regardless, I realize as well.)

I also understood that legal professionals had changed my first birth certificate to appear as though I was the permanent and biological child of my adoptive parents. It looked real on the surface, but it wasn’t. It covered me in a way, but I knew that I had a secret identity out there from a time before being adopted. There was a missing part of myself.
In addition, I was keenly aware that my adoptive parents’ gain was someone else’s loss. Even if my bio-parent(s) made the best decision they could at the time, it was probably the hardest decision and the worst time of their life. It’s like when a beloved person or pet dies and other people say, “Oh now they’re at peace” or “They’re no longer hurting”, etc. The loss is still a very difficult and potentially traumatizing time. Adoption and loss are inter-related.

So, no, Adoption. I can’t make your sorry you-know-what go away. There’s neither a pill nor therapy for that. Instead now, I own you. I am adopted. Even better, I am an adoptee who has searched for, found and reunited with bio family members both in my hometown and across the country. I’m finding relatives on Ancestry DNA, writing articles and books. I go to meetings and discuss adoption issues with other adopted people. I’ve shared my experiences with my spouse and daughters. I tell coworkers, neighbors and anyone else. I’ve quit hiding. You, Adoption, do not own me any longer.

I don’t like you, but I also don’t hate you. You are who you are and like a pesky neighbor who wants to pump me for gossip, someone’s unattended dog that incessantly barks for no reason at four AM, or an elderly person who repeats him or herself over and over. You’re there, but you no longer define all of me. You’re in my life, and it’s OK, but you no longer hold me back from living. You no longer make me sad or mad, ashamed or afraid.
When I’m 85, I hope to be telling everyone in the retirement home or senior center about my adventures and how I conquered you. I will show my grandkids pictures of all their family members and tell them thousands of stories about growing up in the times of social revolution, free love and the emergence of technology, which facilitated social acceptance, awareness and how to find missing people, and I will remain hopeful that one day, responsible adopted adults from all states / countries will all be provided with accurate family history, contact information, counseling if needed and above all, their original birth certificate so that they can know themselves and embrace their own adoptism.

Paige Adams Strickland is an educator, writer and fitness instructor from Cincinnati, OH. She is married with two daughters. She has been in reunion with birth family since 1988. Her first book is Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity. Her sequel memoir, (working title, After the Truth: Adopted Life is Here to Stay), will be completed in a few months. Click the following links for more of Paige’s work: Website / Facebook / Twitter /  Linked In


  1. Spot on! Well done! This is me, and my life too! I’ve also known my bio’s since about 1990. Very rocky relationship between us though. They still maintain secrecy about me to their families. It hurts deeply. They recently rejected me because I don’t meet their gold standard of lifestyle. Maybe it’s better this way because they too, don’t meet my gold standards in matters of the heart!

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  2. Congrats! You’ve crossed a thresh hold. It’s not easy, I’m just coming to term with the reality that blood is in mychildren, in the future and I’m not looking back. For whatever reason my genetic families decided to have no less that 7 kids. My first cousins who had the privilege to bond with each other and get the inheritance and the love that was denied to me. But I have, finally, overcome the crippling rejection handcap and feel incredibly liberated🌈

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  3. Adoption/adoptee are simply descriptions like blonde, olive, blue, mother, grandmother, separated, united, European, North African, abandoned, abused and all other things that are a part of my 72 years of life. They are facts. They are my history, just like a certain 7th great aunt (paternal) who was hung by the Puritans on Gallows Hill in Salem Massachusetts Bay Colony New England on 19 July 1692 and buried in ‘ unconsecrated ground.
    The great aunt defines me because her father is my direct ancestor whose DNA is in my genome. The locations define me as well because they are part of the migrations though which ancient and modern ancestors have travelled. Ethnicity and race simply do not exist.. we are all mostly mutts-the diversity which strengthens and helps humanity to survive. I as you as all others are just a link in a very long chain of mtDNA/Y-DNA/autosomal DNA passed from mother to daughter to daughter or from father to son to son to son -all from grandparents of generations of grandparents before who have populated this globe. We are all admixtures of those who came before, and it is their DDNA which shapes and defines us and how we respond to the situations in our lives.
    An adoption separated me from two siblings but it was two parents who willfully and cruelly abandoned their daughters which affected me then and affects me now. A judge perpetuated identity theft-mine-when he gave me a name not my own and hid my birth name in a sealed file which I was never to see. But I fought back-tooth and nail-against what was injustice. The final adoption order was signed by all (save me) in August of 1950 when I was five. In 1982 I had a sealed copy of my original birth certificate-not from the state of adoption because neither I or my sibs were born in that state- with names of parents and other information upon it. I accomplished this without a computer, a laptop, an i-phone or a database. It was accomplished from real research and shoe-leather.
    It would not be until 2010 that I would find a paternal uncle who looks nothing like me and with whom I have little in common. He knew I was his niece and I that he was my uncle because the key lay in my birth name-=one that only an immediate family member would have known. Others, cousins and spouses of aunts/uncles reject me believing a macabre narrative about my sister and I having been ‘burned up in a fire’ in an unknown location on an unknown date and with no documentation or hard evidence that the story was even remotely credible.
    On the maternal side any who would have know we three siblings are long deceased, and as those living have know knowledge of us, they reject me. But DNA a doesn’t lie and I have a slice of satisfaction to prove those who call me imposter or liar with reports contrary to their certainties.
    When we demand what is rightfully ours and insist that all adoptees are entitled to the same unalienable rights outlined in the US Constitution, as well as to remind them that we are not children to be dismissed out of hand.
    The traumas, anguish, secrets and lies many of us have experience only ‘define’ and limit us if we allow them to do so.
    I don’t hate adoption, I abhor it and anything that abuses or harms a child in any way. To be involuntarily handed over to a person or persons -or institutions- is egregious and unethical-no to mention immoral. And the states who disingenuously arrange to allow access to medical information-which may or may not be accurate-but not to birth information or to the adoption proceedings should be lashed with a buggy whip! As for agencies and their minions who turn vulnerable child over to those who will abuse them-physically, verbally, emotionally, all should have their licenses revoked and their facilities closed -permanently.
    This is only an ounce of my life as an adoptee. Best wishes to all in search or in pain or confused or all the other situations we may find ourselves in. We each have our own narratives and our own perspectives. We ae a no-fault group unlike the societies which perpetuate closed adoptions and sealed documents. If we share our stories and experiences and fight legislation that denies us our rights, will eventually win-for ourselves and for all others.

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