gallery Dear Adoption, I’m Keeping a Secret 

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Dear Adoption, I’m Keeping a Secret 

I’ve kept this secret from everyone.
I’ve kept this secret for my entire life.
I’ve kept this secret and it’s scary to say out loud. 

I’m lonely.  

I recently asked adopted people: “What’s one thing you’ve never told anyone about what it’s like to be adopted?” 

I asked and I heard back from adopted people that have such different perspectives about you, Adoption. They love you. They hate you. They promote you. They promote family preservation. They blog about you. They never talk about you. They live in adoption-land online. They’ve never heard of adoption-land. Their parents blog about you. Their parents have never said your name. 

Now the secrets are coming out, and here’s what we’ve been hiding about you, Adoption: 

  • Lonely, you feel like an alien because you’re the only one with dark complexions [sic]. 
  • Lonely…even when you find your birth family you never fully fit in either world
  • It can be extremely lonely at times…most times
  • You never fully belong anywhere. Even when you find answers 
  • For me personally it’s very hard to feel connected to anyone.
  • It’s like you’re a fish looking into the room you’re placed in. You don’t completely belong
  • I feel like I don’t know how to love like a non-adopted person. It seems like it’s so different 
  • I don’t really “belong” anywhere.
  • The loneliness when I’m with my adopted family, my birth family, anybody. I never fit. Ever. 
  • Feeling like you never fully fit in
  • It’s Infuriating. Difficult to create a good life when your roots are hidden/kept from you. 
  • How much I had yearned for my bio mom specifically.
  • I often think of suicide and depression is debilitating.
  • I never felt like I belonged in my adopted family. I didn’t feel loved as a child.
  • I can never be my authentic self around my adoptive parents, it makes me uncomfortable. 
  • Always an outsider family/birth family/life 
  • I’m actually really happy I’m not biologically related to my adoptive family
  • I also felt like anyone I loved or cared for would abandon/leave me
  • The inevitability of forming harmful core beliefs that I still don’t know if one can ever shed 
  • I don’t have kindness for myself, or comfort in my skin
  • Birth & Separation Trauma = Being afraid to have children myself 😳
  • Never feeling “good enough”
  • That I don’t deserve to be loved.
  • Frustrating not to be able to share/hear stories about what you were like as a baby
  • I resent the woman who gave birth to me…and I met her. And I feel bad about it.
  • How painful some questions are to answer that people ask 💔
  • Lonely
  • Often rejecting forms of love because it’s hard to receive without fear.
  • So much learned shame. I don’t know how to be. I hate to disappoint and reject others. 
  • I’ve had sex with people I didn’t really want to because I didn’t want them to feel bad.
  • I can never truly feel loved by anyone.
  • Lonely. Like a fish in a tree.
  • I thought finding my bios meant I would finally know who I was and belong. I was wrong. 
  • Finding bios made me more depressed and lonely than ever. I truly fit nowhere.
  • Every year on my birthday, my wish was to someday be reunited with my bio parents 
  • How guilty I feel for loving my birth mom
  • That when people make fun of/joke about adoption it makes me ANGRY
  • Not knowing who I really am kills me inside! It makes me so sad. Feeling lonely!
  • When everyone from your adopted family and family friends look at you like a museum piece 😒
  • I’ve always been searching and hoping for HER to come back
  • I miss true friendship in life. I’m always suspicious and tend to get hurt.
  • The way it affects just about every aspect of who you are and who you want to become. 
  • The roller coaster of mixed emotions. All. The. Time.
  • I live with a constant feeling of yearning for something indefinable and nearly constant lovely of anxiety
  • It’s crashing down drunk and shouting all out. All the pain, the abandonment and grief
  • I still believe at age 49 that my parents will not want me anymore if I show them the real me.

Since we’ve kept these secrets, how is the world supposed to know what you are really like, Adoption? 

Adoptees On and Dear Adoption, are outlets created by adoptees, for adoptees. We desire for adoptee voices to rise to the top; to be elevated and considered first for our perspectives about you, Adoption. We have such expertise and thousands of years of combined lived experience. We are wealthy in knowledge and keep many additional secrets we might share if you are brave enough to ask. 

(You can find every secret in the @adopteeson Instagram highlights “secrets”) 

Haley Radke is a fierce advocate for adoptee voices to be heard worldwide. The creator and host of the podcast, Adoptees On, Haley has talked with hundreds of adoptees about their adoption experiences. She believes that sharing these intimately personal stories will help change the traditional adoption narrative. Haley has experienced both secondary rejection (from her first mother) and a wonderful (only after plenty of therapy!) reunion with her first father. Haley has a BA in psychology and is passionate about de-stigmatizing mental health issues. Adoptees On has been downloaded over 200,000 times in 90+ countries worldwide. 

15 comments

  1. “Like a fish in a tree.” All of this entry is great, but that sentence…that sentence is perfect. I will just sit here and pretend not being able to breathe is all right because otherwise someone will discover I can’t fly, and I will fall and fall and fall. That’s exactly what life has felt like to me. Well done!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Snarkurchin…I agree with “like a fish in a tree.” I’m not adopted [I’m just a first mother], but that analogy was a really good one to describe the feeling of not belonging. Adoption hurts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • AT BIRTH I’M GIVEN UP .
      TO ME IT’S CHILD ABANDONMENT !
      MY EMPTINESS OF A FAMILY IS FILLED WITH SUBSTANCE ABUSE AS A YOUNGSTER WITH ENVIOUS WANTS OF MY BIOLOGICAL ?
      AT 15 I WINED UP IN A MENTAL HOSPITAL 4 POINT STRAP CONFINEMENT BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE A FAMILY ! I LIVED IN THE STREETS AND PRISON !
      I PAROLED ON DAY , AND FOUND MY BIOLOGICAL ?WHAT IS LOVE ! EVERYTHING IS A TOTAL MACH , 😊 .
      BUT VERY HIGH HOPES WERE NEGATIVE ! SAD 😥 !
      DEPRESSION MEETS UP WITH HEROIN AGAIN , I DO ANOTHER PRISON TERM .
      NOW I’M STRUGGLING TO LEARN HOW TO BE A FATHER AND LIVING IN A SHELTER WITH MY ONE AND ONLY,😁!
      I’M ADOPTED , I’M IN NEED OF PRAYERS FOR HOUSING !
      I’M A X-ADDICT & GANG MEMBER . I DON’T HAVE FAMILY SUPPORT !
      THANK YU .
      MY NAME IS
      BABY BOY MEDINA. 🙏✌

      Like

  3. Does anyone know what percentage of first mothers search for their child vs. the percentage of adoptees who search? I can’t envision any first mother searching and then rejecting. My son said it’s a good thing I searched because he never would have searched for me. Maybe he needed the reassurance that I cared enough to want to find him.

    Another thing that occurs to me is how the internet might, in some cases, work against adoption reunions. (Note: In some cases.) There is much talk about rejections (on both sides). Might this be a deterrent (in some cases) to not venture into what might be perceived as a minefield? One wonders if (in some cases), adoption rejection becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, i.e., I “know” he or she is going to reject me, so I will reject first. It’s a defense against being hurt again. And that defense can come from either side (first mother or adopted person).

    Like

      • “…completely rejected….” I am sorry. Rejection by one’s mother (or one’s child) is deeply hurtful. When I was searching for my son, an adoptee told me, “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.” The problem is that so many of us who hope for a good reunion, are not prepared for rejection. In my opinion, the one who searches often wants more than the other person is able to give, and there are a myriad reasons why that can happen. Reunion is stressful. Stress can be positive or negative, or usually both. Happy excitement can mix with bad memories. Before reunion, I took a lot of time to deal with feelings, even writing them down almost daily. That helped me. But, I still wasn’t prepared for the avalanche of feelings, lasting for many, many months. I would expect you are feeling anger about the rejection, loss, grief. You do seem to have good insight that you “reject, push people away before they can do it” to you. Maybe your first mother does the same thing? Most first mothers will say they have some painful memories in connection with surrendering a child to adoption. Usually, the mother suffered rejection due to her pregnancy. She may have been rejected by her boyfriend. Lack of support from family and shame can cause feelings of rejection. Reunion does require dealing with one’s painful memories.

        Like

  4. Thank you for helping to give me more insight into how my natural child could be feeling who is now home.

    Some of these feelings he has too shared with me.

    I feel so sad for Adoptees, learning how they feel, yet it is real to each and everyone of you and as a mum and natural mum I admire your courage and your strength to get this information out there, concerning such a personal and sensitive subject to you.

    It brought a tear to my eye.

    I can relate to the fish in a tree, except for me it’s been like a fish in a bowl.

    Thank you for an excellent piece xx

    Like

  5. Every time I’m asked about my family history. My family medical history. My genealogy. Any family history. Neither family history belongs to me.
    I fit nowhere.
    God, how I identify with this piece.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Had I read this 26 years ago, I would have made a very different choice. No one told me this is how my daughter might feel. I was only told that love was enough and love would make everything all better (not my love, of course, but the love of her adoptive parents). How wrong we all were.

    Hayley – thank you so much for carving out a space for adoptee voices. I only wish more people would listen.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. As an Adoptee, I can relate to so many items on that list! I have destroyed so many relationships out of self-preservation and fear of being left. I do not know that I am capable of ever fully trusting someone to stay and always send them on their way before they have a chance to leave me on their own. It is the most indescribable feeling to think you belong nowhere and were not worth enough for someone to want to keep you around. It was not until the birth of my son that I felt like I actually had family. I have searched and found my Bios (I blog about this) who have both passed away and unfortunately was the “bearer of bad news” to my siblings who were not aware of my existence. The rejection I have experienced by them has been so hurtful, although I do realize unintentional. I wish I would have never searched…..

    Like

  8. I comment on the ‘whole’ – what have I never told anyone about how I feel about relinquishment/adoption.

    But yes, sorta fish in a tree, but more like:
    I am an alien on this planet. I have the skills to breathe, move, do all required activities to be allowed to be on earth- but truly, they, all of them, see that I am alien. They don’t.. won’t.. say out loud, “you don’t belong. You need to go. You’re not us,” but that message is, has been, always apparent. Always communicated.
    The despair is, that even though I know, in full clarity and awareness, that it is MY mind that produces this thought/belief of ‘they’ saying or thinking You are unwelcome strange alien – one who does not belong here…

    I still feel it in my cells (bodily). I think as a fetus, I was constantly washed within my birthmother’s fear and shame. It is just how I was made. The ‘washing in shame fear despair’ for 9 months-perhaps can be overcome. Once over the trauma of birth- the love, nourishment, safety of mother’s arms, attunement occurs for many. The second trauma of not experiencing this immediate, so needed attunement et al. then reinforces fear response as a way of being. The adoptive mother (family) comes along and a new type of tuning is attempted. There is/was always push pull to try to make this work/fit-from both, child/2nd mother. Both, so wish, want, consciously and unconsciously, this to fix the loss that occurred. Perhaps sometimes, many times(?) it does. I don’t have enough knowledge to accept this as a truth. Nor can I say, with full confidence, that despair, fear, and shame was how I was made- that it is cellular.

    I may never know the truths I seek. I may just be an alien journey•er. It is ok. I practice at self-love. That is my healing.

    I am in process, at age 53, to try to gain access to my birth parents- closed sealed adoption from The Cradle, IL 1965. There are no guarantees. No thing is permanent. Every Thing always changes. Me too.

    I am my beginning. I am my end.

    Like

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