I was reviewing my post thus far and realized a component was missing; My clear opinion on if adoption is good or bad? The short answer, I am glad I was adopted into my family. You could stop reading there or understand that question is loaded with convoluted answers for me as an adoptee and a birth mother. I grew up the youngest child out of four, adopted into a same-race family. My siblings (2 brothers and one sister) were all adopted, although my oldest brother was an inter-family adoption, so he knew who his birth parents were. Regardless I never refer to my siblings as my adoptive siblings or my parents as my adoptive parents. They are my family.
I did not give much thought to what being adopted meant until my preteen years. I would look at my friends and see their faces in their parents and wonder who I looked like. Whose nose was this that dominated my face? My mother was honey complected with hazel brown eyes. My father was Hershey chocolate, and by his skin tone alone, he was the one I most identified with. My family was stable, we enjoyed trips and family reunions, and I had the same opportunities to do things just like my friends. On paper, there was no difference between them and me. The difference existed in a feeling that I somehow was flawed because I did not know my origin story.
After meeting my birth mother when I was 46 and learning about her life, I do not doubt that being adopted benefitted me financially. I never worried about having enough food, clothing, or money. For my entire childhood, I stayed in the same house. I did not grow up seeing my mother abused or scarcity of material things as the biological brothers I found out about did. I also did not grow up with the familiarity of being able to look at my biological family's faces and have mine make sense. I didn't get to shore up my identity rooted in the family I shared bloodlines with. They may not have grown up financially stable, but they did seem to possess a sense of self that I was still trying to uncover.
I would argue that one of the most important things to a human is identity. Adoptees have an identity crafted out of second-hand stories, government secrecy, and at times lies.
If I long for one thing my parents would have provided me with, it would be to address the scarcity of the basic knowledge of who I was that grew as I aged. As a child, I felt that it would be disloyal to ask questions about my birth mother. I'm not sure why I felt that way. I cannot recall anything said that would make me think questions were forbidden. Perhaps it had to do with my understanding that being chosen meant adoptive parents picked you to be on a particular team; your loyalty was to the team that chose you.
On a Caribbean vacation, I met a young couple considering adoption. I explained that the parents who adopted and raised me were my parents and that I never used the term "adoptive" as an adjective to describe them in general conversation. With that being said, I was honest in sharing that growing up; there was still that part of me that longed to know my origin story, like a superhero. Where did I begin? Whose face did I have? It is natural for a child to wonder where they came from.
They asked how I felt about interracial adoption. It is difficult enough as an adoptee to reconcile your identity. I can only imagine growing up in a home, a community that doesn't reflect that part of you that you see in the mirror every day. However, in my opinion, the adoptive parent has to be cognizant that adopting a child of another race should require the racial environment they raise that child in reflecting the adoptee. It was a conversation I felt like my story and various experiences as an adoptee were helpful. A random conversation over Rum Punch was a catalyst for wanting to continue to share my experiences.
Every child deserves to grow up in a loving home, in a stable environment that is nurturing, safe, and supportive of the child's development. If adoption can provide that, then, in my opinion, that is a win. However, when a child is adopted, that is but a snapshot in time. Who knows if the adoptive parents will stay together? Will job loss bring about poverty? Will a drug problem resurface, ripping the family apart? Instead of honoring the adoptee's culture, will the adoptee feel like an outsider in a family that forces the child to fit their image? For some adoptees, the decision once made in their best interest turns into a cyclone of continued loss, abandonment, and trauma. For other adoptees like me, adoption had its merits, but an emotional price was still paid.
The advice I offer adoptive parents, or those considering adoption is to realize an adoptee's life did not begin when they signed the papers. Do not parent your adopted child in fear that the birth mother will show up and take the child. The unconditional love you hope to receive, offer it in return, even if the child seeks their origin story.
What I wish adoptive parents would tell the adoptee:
Being adopted does not equal your birth mother did not love you.
It's okay to ask questions.
If you want to search, I will help you.
Therapy to work through your feelings is OK.
We are not the only ones capable of loving you.
Choosing you meant choosing every part of you. Your existence did not start with us.
Let me know what you think?