How Does it Feel to be Adopted?
As a child I could never really understand what it meant to be adopted because though I was experiencing it, I had no one else really to speak to about it. Being adopted comes with many questions and when you add the word “feel” you are adding a whole other layer to this very complex family life we call adoption.
Personally, adoption can embody many different feelings because it really just depends on your environment. If you are the only child in the house, and adopted, you are going to feel slightly different than if you are in a house with more siblings who are also adopted. But if you are the only one adopted, but you have siblings who are not adopted, you are walking into a lifetime of judgment, comparison, joy, pain and even hurt. Let me explain.
I was over 3 years old when I was adopted by Caucasian Americans who had one biological child of their own. As a black Haitian, there were several things wrong with this picture. 1st, the color. Though I was living in a country of my own color, I was living with an Adoptive family who did not share my hue. How does it feel to be adopted? It feels as though I was out of place.
As I got older and adjusted to my new white life. I learned to speak the language well (with no accent) and I was grafted into a lifestyle that I would otherwise not have known had I not been adopted by this family. How does it feel to be adopted? I want the accent I lost. Part of me was lost. My brain was reshaped and reformed into that of my adoptive families. I lost my language, my culture, and who I was. I was becoming white. I was leaving behind my DNA-the instrument that brought me into this world.
As a teenager I struggled a lot because I was not afforded everything my siblings were. The biological children definitely had first choice and their voices were heard-all the time. I was expected to be silent, thankful and grateful. My A-Mother had it in her mind that as a black girl, I was strong and I could take certain pain better than her own children. So I was treated as though I “could do it”. How does it feel to be adopted? I feel marginalized, judged, and held at a higher standard because of my color.
In college I thought I was white. And in reality, I probably was one of the whitest black people there. My parents wanted me to go to a “diverse” school and at the same time, they didn’t want me to be diverse. They didn’t want me to learn to think for myself. They wanted me to shut up and obey. I remember bringing home a “C” in one of my classes and they threatened to pull financial support. Whereas my sister who also was in college at the same time was bringing home “Ds” and she was coddled and told that “it was ok”. How does it feel to be adopted? It feels like I owe them something for putting me into college, for giving me a life that I otherwise may not have had. It feels like I will always owe them my life as they supposedly “saved” me from the mud of Haiti’s soil.
I found out I was adopted pretty quickly. It is quite obvious when your parents are white and you are not. All it took was a look in the mirror. All it took was my A-mother saying to friends and family “and these are my natural kids….and this is….” Was I not natural? Maybe I was good friends with an actual stork. My parents really did try and keep in contact with my bio family but at the same time, they didn’t care…or they thought that I didn’t care. I always felt scared to voice how I thought about them because I was afraid of upsetting my narcissistic A-mother. So I never said anything. How does it feel to be adopted? It feels conflicting.
My birth mom died when I was a teenager and my parents told me one day at the dinner table. I cried, but not much. I didn’t know her. After all, she was just my birth mom. Nothing more. But I wondered time and time again where I got my looks. Why my eyes were so small. What was up with my high cheekbones? How does it feel to be adopted? I feel as though I am being disconnected and not able to function until reconnected to the socket of life. It feels unreal.
I found my biological siblings over facebook in my mid to late 20s. I was afraid at first and thought “Oh my gosh, is this a horrible Joke?” My A-mother had told me that they all had perished in the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti. How she knew that, I don’t know. She always claimed she was God’s right hand woman. I spoke with my brother for a bit then had to take a break because it was overwhelming to think that a small piece of me wanted to reconnect. They were alive and wanted to know about me; the one who “got away”. To prove he was my sibling, he took pictures of letters I had sent him when I was a child, and uploaded them to facebook. I knew there was no doubt that he belonged to me. How does it feel to be adopted? I feel unbalanced, uneven, ultra-curious.
Part of being adopted is becoming one with a family who will love you forever and in return, loving them forever. As I grew up, I realized that maybe I will not love them forever. Too much hurt, too much pain, too much judgement. Too many expectations has landed me in a ditch I can’t seem to dig myself out of. Every infraction and mal-treatment has made that ditch deeper and deeper. Without a ladder, there is no hope. But I did find hope; I found hope in my own children I fostered, and eventually adopted. For every time they called me “mom”, I was able to climb one step higher on that ladder until eventually I was out of that diabolical hole. How does it feel to be adopted? It feels like a black hole.
Being adopted comes with not knowing much about your past. And when your APs choose not to share it with you, you are even more in dim silence. I came across my adoption papers as I was trying to find a copy of my birth certificate and I found the case study. As I read through it I saw a section that talked about my mental state, my physical state and my emotional state and how I should be cared for in order to improve all of the above. But that is all I know about my medical history and I am finding this out now? I feel scared not knowing anything about my medical history. What will I pass onto my biological children if I choose to have any? Instead of helping me through these temporary setbacks, my A-parents made them so much worse by withholding food from me, telling me I was fat, and physically comparing me to their biological children. My A-mother psychologically abused me by forcing me to believe that she was God’s right hand lady. When I was sexually abused by other foster children who came and went, my A-parents looked at me as though I “wanted” it. How does it feel to be adopted? A pushover, a doormat, insignificant, slow.
As an adoptee I feel I have a sixth sense (I believe all adoptees do) because I learned to be hypervigilant about my looks, my feelings, and just about everything else about me. I learned to answer correctly so as not to cause a stir. But I also see through people. When I love, I love deeply. When I am angry, my anger seeps out of me. I learned for so long to keep it in. I learned for so long that I was the “lucky” one and that I should be thankful. The funny thing is, I am thankful. I am thankful that I am alive and I am thankful that I serve a mighty God. I am thankful that I can speak about my experience and help APs all around the world become aware that people like me do have a voice. How does it feel to be adopted? It feels wonderful. It feels horrible. It feels complicated. It feels confusing. It feels sad. It feels like I don’t just live on one side of the tracks. I live on the tracks themselves. It feels like a breath of fresh air as I am able to open my eyes, connect, relate, and understand not just those who are like me, but those who are not. It feels REAL!
Maline, perhaps it’s the luck of the draw of whom an adopted child ends up being parented by. My story isn’t much different from yours. Although, I am white, I wasn’t treated like their child, but personal property. I heard things like they paid for me (found the receipt for $500.00), I owed them, I was obligated to do whatever they demanded, I suppose because money had indeed changed hands. Also on the receipt was a list of things not to do: treat said child like property or a slave, deny the child an education, things along that nature-I don’t remember all of them). My adopted parents treated me like I was a cross between a pet & their servant, doing the exact opposite of what they were instructed. The former would require me to do tricks for their guests, the latter, well child labor was the norm for me.
I have little information on actual family. I don’t know much of anything about my biological father. I think he had more than one family…many kids, but I am not really sure. On my biological mom’s side, I am her middle child. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around that aspect. I tried to get to know them, but have failed there as well. I am too old to chase people or play games. I feel that if they want to get to know me, fine. If not, have a nice life. Growing up as an only child, I learned to cope without having siblings around. It’s not the end of the world for me to be alone.
I never felt like a part of either of my adopted parents’ extended family. None of them bothered to get to know me as a human being. I guess I wasn’t worthy of their time. Some of them talked down to me too….telling my parents that I would never amount to anything, & other hurtful barbs. Not sure what I did or what happened, there was never an explanation as to why…now that my adopted mother has passed away, & I have cut ties due to his continued abuse towards me (makes me a villain to practically everyone….how dare I cut ties with a man who never liked, loved, or cared for me? Had to be my fault 100%), I’ll never discover the truth. No one from either side of that family will speak to me….haven’t for years.
All you can do, Maline, is be yourself, be true to yourself, & never let another person try to steal your personality away. When you strip away everything else, all we have are our souls anyway. God made us who we are, & being what He meant for us to be is more important than trying to fit into some neat little box that’s too small to contain our spirits.
Thank you for creating this space. It’s so rare to find other adoptees. Glad you survived! God did create you for a reason!
Oh my dear, my heart bleeds for you, for the loss, pain and grief, for the abuse, judgement and discrimination, for the lack of respect, love and caring. I have just read your open letter to ‘You’ as well but could not find a way to leave a reply on that post. So this is my response to your story as I know it from the reading. I am so deeply sorry for your suffering and pain.
I write this as an adoptive Caucasian mother to two handsome young men adopted from overseas. We have been blessed and privileged to have them enrich our lives and gift us with the joy of parenting. I am eternally grateful that their birth mothers loved them enough to give them up for adoption. Had they not, they would very possibly both be dead by now. Our oldest, from India came to us as a 5 month old. He is now 28. Our youngest, from the Phillippines, joined our family as a 2 year old. He is now 22. They both live at home still. We have a ‘normal’ parent/child relationship with them. They are deeply loved and belong to a caring and loving extended family. I just wanted to share a story with you from a different perspective.
Yes, you do have a voice. And I am so glad you have found it and that you feel real. God bless you. Raili
Thank you for commenting. One of the myths many adoptive parents (including myself) struggle with is the idea that had we not adopted, the child would have not survived. That is the savior mentality that we need to stop feeding ourselves and our kids. The other thing adoptive parents do is speak for their adopted kids. Unless you were adopted you can not speak for your child’s experience… Ever! You would be surprised at how many kids actually feel differently about their adoption than parents hoped. Adoption begins with loss and the level of loss is different for everyone. I believe you were a good mom but i dont ever want you to feel sorry for me nor do i want you to speak for your adopted children.
Part of our parenting workshops whilst going through the adoption process included extensive work on the loss and grief aspects of adoption. And a whole heap of other stuff. The saviour myth has not entered into our lives or that of our children. My comment was more about the stark reality of life in the countries in which they were born. Perhaps I should have made that clearer.
As for feeling sorry for you – no, consider it more an empathy (as opposed to sympathy). We each have our own unique journeys and challenges in life. And I would never be so impertinent as to speak for my children. I honour and respect their rights to voice their own experiences and feelings. I know only too well how each of them has experienced their adoption in as far as they have been willing to share that with us. And as expected, they are unique to each child.
Your passion for the rights of the adopted child shines through.
Your comments are appreciated! Thank you.