Dear Adoption, You Left Me Angry and Broken
Yes, broken. The type of broken where I am unsure if I will ever be repaired. The kind of broken that will stay with me for a lifetime. The kind of broken where many people don’t see the complexities of adoption, and instead see it as a “life saving” event for a baby or young child’s life.
Please, do not get me wrong. I am grateful for every opportunity I was given, every person I was lucky enough to meet, and for every person who has stayed; I don’t need to give an explanation for my gratitude. Adoptees are told all the time, “be grateful you were adopted, because you could have grown up hungry, poor, or a prostitute.” Those are words I was told by a member of the family I was adopted into. Adoptees are told they were saved, they were the chosen one, they should be lucky, their mothers were drug addicts, didn’t want them; the list could go on forever. And then there’s the nicer side, “Your mother loved you so much that she gave you up because she couldn’t take care of you.” But who is to say what is best for the child? Who is to say these lies, when in reality, most people do not know the story. So, while gratitude is nice, important, and even necessary, this isn’t a story about gratitude. I’ve been told my whole life to be grateful. This is a narrative of anger, of being broken, of being empty. Why? Because we’re told to shut up and be grateful, and to internalize our pain for the sake of the great people who “saved us.” I am tired of always having to be the happy adoptee in order to not hurt other people’s feelings or justify how I feel.
I find myself always looking for answers, always having a deep desire to connect with people, feel loved, make others feel loved, yet start to wonder if I am worthy of love. Being broken will do that to a person. How, you ask? In my own experience of being broken, I always tell myself that I am not worthy of love. I am not worthy of being loved. I do not deserve the people in my life; people will leave me. If I was more loveable, the Woman Who Gave Birth to Me would have kept me.
If I was more loveable and less broken, I would have made the family I was adopted to happy.
I would have exceeded all of their expectations.
I would be “more grateful.”
If I wasn’t so broken from adoption, I’d be able to give more.
I’d be a better person.
I’d care more for the world.
I wouldn’t give my all to keep others warm.
I wouldn’t be so angry.
If I wasn’t so broken, maybe I would actually have a mother. Or a family who could love me.
If I wasn’t so broken, I wouldn’t make others angry.
If I wasn’t so broken from adoption, I wouldn’t be scared people were going to leave me all of the time.
If wasn’t so broken, I’d stop asking everyone if they’d like to be my mother.
If I wasn’t broken from adoption, I wouldn’t be so damn hard to love.
Maybe they should leave me, because I am so broken.
Being broken has left me with severe abandonment issues. If the Woman Who Gave Birth to Me could leave me, why wouldn’t you? Or you? Why wouldn’t any of you? My existence is broken. Worthless.
Adoption, you broke me. There are nights I cry because I feel so alone. You broke me because every woman who walks into my life I desperately want to be my mom. My aunt. My sister. You left me with a family who gave me up, and a family who wasn’t meant to love me for me, and we are now estranged.
You left me with questions answered, and unanswered.
You left me with so much pain; I have taken it out on my body, on myself.
You left me with deep perfectionism issues that will never be met.
You left me with resentment.
You left me with a name that was so damn American and took away the one part of Vietnam that could have stayed with me.
You left me with a lack of belonging.
You left me with no sense of purpose.
You left me with an empty feeling that comes solely from adoption and every time I feel it, it brings me to my knees. Or I start crying. Or pull over driving. Every time I see a mom and child, specifically mother/daughter- in real life or in a movie- I just collapse internally. This empty feeling is worse than any anxiety attack I have ever felt. It’s almost debilitating. I feel it in the pit of my stomach, probably where the Woman Who Gave Birth to Me and I were once connected.
In February, I traveled to Vietnam to find, and meet, the Woman Who Gave Birth to Me. I felt every emotion humanly possible in four hours: excitement, guilt, shame, anger, resentment, happiness, sadness. She didn’t hug me. Maybe she didn’t want to overwhelm me, maybe it was cultural. Whatever the reason, it left me feeling emptier. I hear her voice often. If I hear a song I listened to when I was in Vietnam, it makes me feel pain. If I smell a certain smell, I start to cry. I am thankful for having the opportunity to go and have the opportunity most adoptees can only dream of, but it made me feel more broken. I didn’t think that was possible. And I feel more pain than ever before.
Adoption, you left me broken. In pain. Hurting. Abandoned. With severe depression. You’ve made me want to take my life, and still do. I wish I loved you, but I don’t. I love the opportunities you gave me, but I don’t love you. I resent you. And I wish others understood.
You left me broken for the sake of others. Adoption, if you broke me, are you going to fix me, too? Or leave me in pieces.
Brittany Hawley recently graduated from Cardinal Stritch University with her Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Sociology, with a double minor in diversity studies and communication. She gave her commencement speech last May. Brittany is very passionate about social justice and making a difference in her community. Brittany is hoping to earn her PhD, she’s just not sure what. She currently works in mental health and is hoping to do more work with research and non-profits. Brittany recently traveled to Vietnam to meet the Woman Who Gave Birth to Her, and it was an emotional experience, to say the least. Brittany is thankful for everyone who became her family; friends, teachers from high school, faculty and staff from college, and who continue to love her, even if she thinks she does not deserve it.