As I sit here and press the keys on my laptop, I wonder how do I put into words what life has been like for the last thirty years, under the holey umbrella of adoption…
It took me twenty-nine years to finally own up to the pain that held me hostage for so many years; the pain that affects every part of my being and the relationships I now hold dear to my broken heart.
I am broken because of adoption.
The vastness of loss, abandonment, fear, doubt, uncertainty, hurt, and abuse that I have experienced through adoption breaks me even to this day.
As a child in grade school, I’d do “weird” things that didn’t make sense to me at the time, but now feel the heavy pain of what it meant.
I spent the first three years of my life with my adoptive father. Then he moved to Canada and I spent the next six years with his sister-in-law (who now resents me for having had her tend and care for me for five years) and another year with her eldest son, his wife, and their baby. I would eventually move to Canada from the Philippines at nine years old. I barely knew my adoptive father. He had missed so much of my life and that time was spent being outcast, separated, and bullied by those he left me with. When I moved to a new country, all the underlying issues and tendencies I had, I had to pretend didn’t define me so my adoptive father wouldn’t dislike who I had become, but don’t worry this would make me stronger.
I stood every day outside at the playground and at the end of the day, as all the children ran to their parents, hugged them, and walked hand-in-hand away to what seemed to me a better and more beautiful lives. I stood there alone, in the middle of a busy playground until it was empty. The tears would fall until there were no more. I didn’t understand what it meant, why I did this over and over again, for months on. Today, I realize, I stood there alone, waiting for my parents to claim me. But I didn’t have any; I basked in the pain of jealousy until it no longer hurt in the moment. Time would pass, and it would make me stronger.
I continuously had to write about being no ones at school for family projects. Time and time again, I’d have to tell the teachers that no matter how smart I was, I didn’t have the words or ability to write, from experience, what family means or who my family was. I had no family. I was no ones and nobody was mine, but this would make me stronger.
I participated in sports at school; part of so many teams and yet still felt small and unworthy. I’ve won baseball games, track & field games, basketball games, but it never felt like a win, because in the stands stood parents who cheered on their children, while I heard nothing of my name in the screams. The crowd fell silent when it was my turn to bat, or after I scored a basket, or a run with all my might; no one cheered. I’d fall, scrape my knee, my arms, my face, but I’d get up, brush it off, and walk-on, because it would make me stronger.
I was mocked for being adopted all of my childhood, never able to dodge the word, “Ampon”(adopted, in Tagalog – Filipino). I stood alone in a massive family, where I looked like no one, acted like no one, thought like no one. It was just me, but this would make me stronger.
As a teen, I would learn to choose my relationships and the people who surrounded me. I would choose those who seemed like they craved freedom, because that’s what it seemed I needed to release the prisoner within me.
My adoptive father never questioned my intelligence. Always straight A’s from grade school to high school until I could no longer keep up with being smart. Smart didn’t deal with the issues I had at home. Smart didn’t deal with the emotional and mental abuse I suffered at home. Smart didn’t deal with the controlling abuse I experienced at home. Smart didn’t deal with the outcast I was to my “friends” because they disliked my adoptive father, but this would make me stronger.
I would lose out attending birthday parties, because my “friends” didn’t want to have to deal with my adoptive father calling their house. They didn’t want to receive his calls on about where we were, what we were doing, and who we were with. I lost friends, because I was too broken and carried too much baggage that was way too heavy for them to bear with me, but this would make me stronger.
At fifteen, I would be taken out of my adoptive father’s small, one-bedroom apartment filled with all of his things. A tiny apartment, barely any room, because my adoptive father was a hoarder. From a collection of old lamps, a heavy television from the 50’s, and a bunch of recent televisions he never used, to boxes and boxes of his stuff that covered the whole of our supposed living room, imprisoning us to the tiny kitchen, and the one bedroom with barely space to walk in between the two beds. The government didn’t feel he was capable of taking care of me. I felt sad and sorry for him then. I was angry for the government punishing him for not being able to do more, because after all, that’s just “life” for the low-income families and this would have been the same fate for me with my birth mother, but this would make me stronger.
I spent a year and a half in foster care with an italian family who, to say the least, merely enjoyed their monthly income from housing foster care children. I cleaned their house more than their own children, I lost out on my allowance for being a minute late for my 6 p.m. curfew. I was only allowed three meals; no snacks. I had to stay in the dark basement to watch a tiny television after homework and go to the only bathroom in the house I was allowed to use. I spent a whole year feeling like a prisoner, but it wasn’t anyone else’s fault but mine, because I couldn’t be strong. They took me away not only because my father couldn’t provide my own space within his living space. I was taken away because I was suicidal. I had written a letter of wanting to die and kept it in my locker. With my grades falling, all my teachers felt the downward spiral and they were weary of me losing my honours title. They spoke with the principal and found the letter I had written from feeling broken and pain at home. I would find myself sitting with the counsellor and a children’s aid who would decide I was no longer my adoptive father’s concern, but theirs, but this would make me stronger.
After a year and a half in foster care, I turned sixteen and chose to live on my own while I finished high school. I worked a full-time job to cover my expenses and did this until I graduated. I found my way back to my adoptive father’s apartment, because I wanted to to go college. But he shut me down and told me he had no money to send me to school; he also refused to sign for my government funding application because claiming it on his taxes would be a disadvantage and inconvenience to him, but this would make me stronger…
Read Part 2