Right now, as I type the word “adoptee”, Microsoft says I have spelled the word incorrectly. Like the way people pronounce my last name given to me by my APs who gave me their last name but failed to give me their citizenship which would make life a much easier place to belong to, they can’t pronounce it and often-times they don’t even try. My first name, also given to me by parents who chose not to question the unethical acquisition of my false identity (after finding out of course), is one that I am working on erasing. Not erasing because it is not beautiful. No erasing because it does not “suit” me, not erasing because its definition does not define me (according to my A-mom), erasing because it is not me and never was me. My identity is built on a person who does not exist anymore. She died at the age of 2, or 3, or who really knows. But she lives on. Through me, through my body, through my thoughts, through my mind and heart. I force her to live on. I give her movement, I am her being. But then who is my being?
The word adoptee is not found in my dictionary. If you take the time to right click on the word, after it has been underlined with a squiggly red line, my options that come up are “adopter, adoption, adopt”. But we are none of those at this time. We are adoptees and we have a voice that has forever been silent. WE have been silent because we don’t want to question the hands that “Saved” us. We are silent because we don’t know what truth is. We are silent because literally, nothing comes out of our mouths.
This word, that gives us so much power but yet also rips out our souls, is a word that we need to reclaim as people. We were adopted and grafted into a new family that, oftentimes, look nothing like us. For some reason, it is cooler to be the adoptive parents than to be the adoptee. People see adoptive parents as amazing, wonderful, and brave people. These people sacrificed their entire life to give us this life, this new existence that our parents would have “wanted” for us. How do they know? How do they know that they would have wanted this for us?
Had they known that I would have been treated like trash, sexually, physically and emotionally violated, and become that Angry Adoptee that everyone seems to talk about, they would not have given me up. Because what loving parent wants their child to be put through so much hurt. Not to mention the hurt, the trauma of being separated from those people who are your blood, your roots, your soul. The minute separation happens, your brain starts to rewire itself, questioning the reason to keep on functioning. Mine did.
But who really cares, right? Because after all, they did give us a “better” life. I’m not sure if a better life can really be what they gave me. They lied to me from day 1-already that “better” life has been an infraction on my very existence.
Like a loose tooth that is ready to come out, I longed for my family. I longed to be part of them and yet, something (that one little bit of flesh) was keeping me from fully experiencing who I am.
When my parents found out that my adoption papers were falsified, and I was indeed someone who was dead, they chose to laugh about it. “Well, at least we got out of that hell hole where they were parading heads on sticks”. Really? How about how I feel? Knowing that one day, when I die, I would have died twice. Has anyone died and been born again? That is what I will be…a born again, and a death twicer. Have they ever stopped to think that maybe this “funny joke” was not fucking funny at all?
And what does all of this mean legally? Has that dead girl been registered? And has she been able to be registered? Have I hijacked her own death? Will I ever know, until I have died? Will my spirit become one with hers? Will I be married to someone who I have never known? Will this arranged marriage lead to an eternity of togetherness? Am I one in spirit with her? Will I be one in spirit with her? Ahhh, these questions will plague me forever.
I have so many people saying “just get over it. It’s going to be ok”. Or they say “That is pretty cool, you gave this dead girl life”. FUCK all of you who say these things. No, it will never be ok. There are so many legal implications of me being someone I am not. Fraud. And who are these people who signed these papers?
I think of those who people in the US who complain of identity theft. How sad, how frustrating. You lose everything and it takes a long time to regain your identity. Ah, this feeling you feel…..I am that thief (I was not a willing player though).
I’m afraid to search for my real identity. When my brother told me that my mother’s name was not the name on the BC that I so inappropriately own, I fell on the ground and started to cry. “What? How can this be?”
My parents told me that my identity belonged to a dead girl but they never cared to talk much more about it. Not sure if they were uncomfortable or if they just didn’t care. I have no idea. I guess I should have put 2 and 2 together. But I couldn’t. This 2 plus 2 did not equal four this time. It equaled “HOLY SHIT”. Why did I not connect the names? Because I was a child and it was not my job to make those connections. It was my parents job to go to the people who wrote up these false documents, and question them. They should have said “make this right, my daughter has always had identity issues and trauma, the last thing she needs is to assume the identity of someone else, not just someone else, but someone who is dead.” But no. They didn’t question. They didn’t ask. They didn’t care. What they cared about was their own life….missionaries, doing the will of God while holding hands with Satan.
I don’t blame them for the unethical adoption. I blame them for making it sound like it is a “funny” thing. I blame them for not caring to make things right. I blame them for thinking I’m still that adopted child instead of an adopted adult who has a life, a wife, and kids. I blame them for being selfish and thinking only of their “Saving” mission instead of their “drowning daughter”.
After reading “Ghost of Sangju” I realize I’ve had the chance to answer my own questions. It took me a bit more than three hours (over two days spread out) to read the book. The book has indeed reopened the scab and has caused tears to gush out from every orifice. My whole body cries out because my innermost being is not who it should be. A friend of mine, who is part of TRA told me I am still me. I am that “me” that I crave so much. And in a way, I agree with her. Because who else would I be? But the issue with this is that my identity is not me. My documents do not represent my soul. When and if I want to search deeper, where do I start? If I choose to return to my birthland, will I be arrested for impersonating someone?
I had this strange realization when I traveled to Haiti this August 30th. This was the day my daughter’s adoption papers were complete. This overwhelming feeling of joy, frustration, guilt, anger, and questions loomed over me like a heavy dark cloud about to rain. I hated what I was doing, and yet at the same time, I could not go “back”. Her adoption was unconventional in the sense that I never planned to adopt her. I just planned to open up the door to other options for her, but I could not really do this unless she was legally part of me. The US would not allow me to open up these doors for her unless she was legally adopted. The US forced me to change her last name. It dawned upon me that unless I changed her last name, the life I wanted to offer her would not exist.
After the earthquake of 2010, the US put in tighter security measures to eliminate abduction and child trafficking. But what about those people who are not abducting or trafficking? They are forced to create a whole new identity for the kids they wish to forge a different future for. I was one of those. I stood at the border, and watched people with broken limbs, bashed in heads, forgotten souls, rush into this semi constructed building on the other side of reality, and I was there, in my blue scrubs and afro-tastic hair, ushering my own people into a country where they are not welcome. And yet, in that very instance, racism, hatred, prejudice and superiority took the back seat. For those few minutes during my triage duty, the world stopped, my ears ceased to do its job, my eyes got blurry, my breath was punched out of me, my mind was suspended between the odd belief that dreaming while being awake was not really dreaming at all.
And babies cried tears of utter despair as they watched their moms and dads be taken away, as they felt the cool but brief wind from a blanket pass over them as the unskilled volunteer covered their loved ones faces and bodies because death has come upon the physical selves.
I stood in disbelief, with no words, no space, no time, no mind of my own.
I understood why people wanted to take these babies. I understood why trafficking would become an issue. I understand why the US required new and stricter laws. But I was not one of those. And yet I’ve always felt like one of them.
My daughter, even though she came to me at age four, is one hundred percent her mother. She belongs to her mother, not to me. And yet her mother wanted me to open that other door for her because that was a door that she, at the time, was not able to open. That door needed more people as it appeared to have been made of concrete instead of a light wood that can be found as scraps on the ground on the way to work. That door was not willing to allow her to open it.
As I sat in Haiti, nervous, and having to pee, I was told by my lawyer that it was because of my “proper” adoption, that my daughter’s adoption was approved. Does he not have any idea of how my adoption was done? How was my adoption “proper”. And then it came to me, the person I am impersonating’s death certificate has not been registered. Or it has been registered but it has been hidden. A million and one questions rushed through my head. Did the orphanage not ever tell her parents that she had died? What if the mother decided to go back and visit her in the orphanage a few years later? Would they tell her the truth? Is any of this the truth?
I had to hold my tongue as I wanted to tell him everything I knew. And at the same time, I didn’t want to jeopardize my daughter’s newly completed adoption we had waited 3.5 years to conclude. I was selfish, and yet I was also thinking about her and her mother. Her mother would not “take her back” as I tried when she was four and a half, five. My hope was just to give her food and schooling, get her healthy and prepare to let her return to her mom, and yet she would not let my hand go. I shook it, I told her “ok honey, you are ready”. It had been an open fostering, I just wanted to get her healthy as she came to me with red hair, and skinny legs. Her mother dropped her off (along with her 3 year old sister). I told her “Sure”, I’ll get them healthy again. And that is what I did.
But she would not let go of my hand. I pulled my arms up as she clung to them. I shook, and pushed her away, tears welling up in me. Her sister went willingly, she was 4 at the time. The stay was supposed to be temporary. And yet she would not let me go. I became stern as my oldest foster daughter watched from inside the car, phone in hand playing a game but yet one eye always watching to make sure I was “safe” (she was my Larimar). But my child would not let me go.
And then I heard these words in creole “li pa pu mwe” (she is not for me). And I stopped. I got down on my knees to reach her level and said “what’s going on?” in spanish because that is the language she spoke at the time. “No quiero ir” is what she told me and gave me a huge hug. My daughter who was in the car during this whole situation yelled out the window “mom, im going to be late for soccer”. I had a decision to make, leave her despite what she wants, or bring her with me and unwillingly allow her to lose her language, culture and part of her identity. “FUCK”, I thought in my head. My daughter yelled out the window again, and like a typical 13 year old, honked the horn. “I’m going to be late….gosh!” I turned around and as much as I wanted to yell at her, I just said “coming!”.
With child in hand, her mom handed her backpack back to me. The backpack had all her new clothes we had bought in the 6 months she was living with us. Her cute socks, her bottle (because she was attached to it), and her ribbon. I affixed the backpack securely on her back and her hand still remained in mine. And yet, even in that moment, I told myself that this little human being would only be with us temporarily. I told myself this as I was not ready to make it permanent.
As I think about my adoption, I think about what it must have been like for my birth mom. I was sick, I had heart problems, and I was small. My birth date is wrong on my BC, but the day of my birth is known, the year, no one seems to really know. January 21st. My APs gave me February 14th because that was the day I opened my A-mom’s spiritual womb. I hated it, especially since I felt no love on a day that is supposed to be all about love. So I no longer celebrate that. My passport birthday puts me three years behind, which actually made it very difficult for me to adopt my daughter. And yet, receiving gifts at three different times was nice ;).
But we don’t exist. I don’t exist anymore. Not on paper, not in spirit, not in real life. Because maybe, I never really had a Birth Certificate. And if I do, how was my name spelled? Was my father on there too?
Mom, if you are in heaven (I can’t imagine you anywhere else), did you really love me? Does love mean you give children up? Does love mean you trust strangers? Does love mean you didn’t want me to die? Who are you to think I would die….oh yes, you are my mom and many times, and in this situation, I believe a mother knows best.