Sometimes I worry that talking about how being has adopted impacted me might send the wrong message.
It’s true that the person I grew up to be was shaped, in no small way, by the fact that I was removed from my family of origin and adopted by another family. I struggled as a child, as a teenager, a young adult, and as an adult wondering who I was supposed to be and where I fit in. I have had a sense of shame at the core of me, not for anything I did but for who I am. I have been terrified of being abandoned, and this fear contributed to me making poor choices sometimes. I have felt rejected by many, if not most, people who have passed throughout my life, legitimately or not. I have been plagued with deep and unresolved grief, a grief I didn’t realize was there for much of my life. I tread softly and leave a small footprint because of a sense of not being entitled to that which most other people are. I have felt alienated and alone. I have wondered who I would be if not for this adoption experience.
But I have also been abundantly blessed.
I had parents who loved me and gave me a good life; they supported me, they believed in me, and they loved me. I had an extended family who embraced me; I knew what it felt like to be in a place surrounded people who love me. I have rarely wanted for anything I needed; I have had good health; I have a husband who loves me and happy and healthy children and grandchildren.
But just like you, I deserve to know where my ancestors came from. I deserve to be mirrored by knowing others who resemble me physically, in mannerism, and in interests and talents. I should be entitled to know if there is a history of illness in my lineage, or if there is a rich history of greatness passed down from generation to generation. I deserve to know the name I was given when I was born.
The wound left in my soul from being adopted will never completely heal, but in learning the truth I can find comfort and peace and learn to release much of the grief that has plagued me silently just below the surface for much of my life. In allowing me to know the truth you give me wings with which I can soar to reach my full potential; you contribute to making this world a better place by helping one person become strong and emotionally healthy. I know these things are true because I have been fortunate enough to gain access to my family of origin; I know the name I was given at birth; I have looked into the faces of people who share my DNA. More importantly, I have learned the truth about the circumstances around my birth and subsequent adoption; I have found a measure of peace and healing as a result of learning the truth.
Please understand that I believe in the blessing of adoption. Children are given a mom and dad; parents are blessed by the preciuos children entrusted to their care; families are created. I am thankful that, for the most part, we are no longer in a culture of secrecy and shame around adoption. I am thrilled at the openness I see beginning to surround the adoption community and happy for those adopted children of today who will be able to know the love of adoptive parents and, when the time is right, have access to information about their family of origin and, in some cases may grow up with biological family members in their life in some capacity. All of this honesty can only contribute to making the lives of everyone in the adoption constellation healthier; secrets are never the best option.
I am also grieved that some still believe that it’s okay to keep those secrets and deny access to information about who we are and where we came from. I fear they may not understand we cannot reach our full human potential if we are kept suffocated by a cloak of secrets. As an adoptee who was adopted under the closed adoption system, I understand the damage that secrecy and lies can have on the psyche of an individual and I believe it’s up to those of us who have been fortunate enough to obtain the basic information still denied to so many adoptees to speak out about the healing the truth can bring.
I also believe that it is our responsibility to be respectful and thoughtful in this work. I’m convinced that change will come with education, and that those who have been impacted have the most responsibility to educate those who do not understand.
My mom used to tell me that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar and I believe that adage holds true in the area of adoption education too.
At least that’s my goal.