My Inconvenient Truth
Growing up, I essentially always knew that I was adopted since I was told at a very young age. My parents really never discussed being adopted with me past the initial talk and I felt strongly that I was not supposed to bring it up because they never did. I spent a lot of time wondering about my story and all the things such as who my birth parents were, what they were like, why they gave me away, if I had siblings, if they thought about me, etc. I wanted to know those things but I did not think it was ok to ask. I was afraid of hurting my parents feelings or making them mad if I said anything about my other family. Despite not discussing any details about my story, my parents always told me that I was special and chosen and loved. And to be honest, that made me feel good! I mean, here I was… this special baby that in my child’s mind, was so special that they picked me out from amongst all the other babies. Who wouldn’t want to be that baby?
This beautiful narrative of adoptees being special, chosen, and loved was also reinforced in the tv shows and movies I watched, in the books I read, in the lessons at church, and in the words of others around me. Since I grew up in a loving family, I just believed all of that to be true and assumed that all adoptees were so blessed to have been saved from a life of struggle and placed into much better situations. Adoption as I knew it was beautiful and I even hoped to adopt one day and give another child that privilege! I became an adult and left home for college with my first real access to the internet. I began immediately to search for any information I could find about myself and hoped to be able to find my birth family. My adoptive parents still remained silent about my adoption story which indicated to me that I should not tell them about searching and my desire to know my birth family so I kept everything a secret and never talked about it. I also never talked about a lot of the things I felt inside because anytime I even mentioned being adopted it was almost always met with “Oh, that is so special” or something similar. To the very select few people I told about my desire to search, their first concern usually was my loyalty to my adoptive family and how it would make them feel instead of any concern about my needs or how I had felt my whole life without knowing anything. It was just easier to keep it all to myself than to hear the comments from people who didn’t understand.
“I know that some of the things I say will challenge you to look through a different lens and to consider a different point of view.”
Eventually, after many years I was able to find and reconnect with my birth family in a successful reunion. I thought I had reached my end goal which would resolve all of my adoptee feelings and now I could live happily ever after. I never expected that reunion and gathering all the pieces of my story would actually lead me to a place of almost more confusion and questioning than ever before as I started to realize that everything I had been led to believe about adoption wasn’t exactly true. I’ve definitely learned that if you are adopted (or even if you are considering relinquishing a child or adopting), you should question everything! During this time I was very thankful to be able to connect with other adoptees and become aware of the issues that so many of us have in common that I thought were solely mine. It is quite amazing to realize that you’re not alone and have a place where you feel free to talk about your feelings and emotions with the only people who can truly understand!
Many of us adoptees have an intrinsic fear of rejection and are also extreme people-pleasers, so we tend to keep most of our true feelings about adoption inside or only talk about them within the confines of our adoptee community, our safe space. With the support of my family, I have decided to speak up publicly as I feel called to bring some very important issues in the adoption industry to light. I no longer want to keep my truth hidden, but to live authentically. However, doing this is so much harder than you think! Because when your truth challenges the prevailing narrative of “adoption is beautiful” that exists in our society you will quickly find opposition. I know my truth is very inconvenient for some but I refuse to be silent or to apologize for sharing it. I know that it is hard to accept that what you have been led to believe about adoption is not the whole truth and sometimes it is just an outright lie. Trust me… we adoptees get that for sure! I know that some of the things I say will challenge people to look through a different lens and to consider a different point of view. I know that some of these things may cause some to feel defensive or even guilty as they realize they may have played a part in promulgating these ideas. I’ve been accused of being negative, ungrateful, angry, and bitter, but I am not responsible for any feelings that another person projects onto my words. My truth is my truth. Whether it is perceived as good or bad, positive or negative… it is simply MY truth. Even if it is inconvenient.
Wonderful post, Jamie.
I am so glad you are sharing your story. Your experiences are so important! Your writing is very balanced and helps “us” to understand, on a deeper level, what adoptees experience. I have many friends who have adopted children. So many were abandoned, neglected, abused. I ache for the child who must endure the a battle they did not sign up for, and how that will shape their lives both now and as long as they live. I will continue to read as you share, and thank you for doing so!
Thank you, Donna! I appreciate anyone who can keep an open mind and is willing to listen.