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.