Wednesday, April 2, 2014

On Adoption

My daughter Rebekah posted this on her Tumblr page, and has kindly given me permission to repost it on my blog. It is an adoptee's perspective on adoption, written in response to this article.


Every adoptee has his/her own story and personal experience. 
All adoptive parents have their own reason for adopting and experiences of being an adoptive parent. 
My personal experience as an adoptee has, for the most part, been seamless and positive. As a child, my “biggest” qualms with being adopted were probably being a visible minority in a small, rural, caucasian community. I don’t remember any racist remarks or even childhood bullying or chiding (other than the short girl who said she could see my nose hairs. I cursed my flat, large-nostriled Asian nose that day). Negative feels were more due to societal norms of beauty (reinforced by the community’s population demographics) and lack of exposure to Asian role models (a whole other issue). We all have our childhood moments of angst, however, right?
Two of my other siblings and I are international adoptees (three different countries). Speaking for the three of us, I can’t recall any malicious comments directed at us because we were adopted. As a child, I took all adoption comments in stride, probably more excited to be the subject of interest than anything else—the middle child of five takes what she can get. As a child, I had no interest in learning about Korean culture or deep emotional talks about the psychological implications of being adopted. Why? Because that differentiated my from my two older brothers (birth children of my parents). Sure, I loved answering questions about how I came to be in the family, but to me, it was no different than telling you how my older brother once stuck his heads between the staircase railings and freaked my mom out—it was just a good family story. That said, my parents never showcased my siblings and I as their adopted children, which I feel sometimes happens with other adoptees.
Yes, there were the eye-roll comments, “When did you know you were adopted?” We were asked about our birth parents and their motive for putting us up for adoption. Probably the most offensive and more inexcusable. Other comments did “laud” our parents for adopting, especially my brother who is triple amputee. In my mind, however, these can be taken as offensive, or you can accept them as awkward compliments. I don’t think my siblings and I, or my parents were given these remarks in condescending or pitying tones. Adoption is a BIG commitment, afterall. As a married woman of childbearing age who hopes to have children of my own, I’m increasingly incredulous of my parents’ decision. I just took a moment to imagine adopting a child and I seriously felt scared, anxious and reluctant. “How would I know if I could really love her/him as my own?” “What happens after the 6 month/1 year honeymoon stage is over?” When one conceives a child, they have time to transition and form an immediate physical and emotional connection. With adoptions, you’re childless one day and the next you’re welcoming another person into your family. Sure there’s emotional buildup with paperwork and waiting, but psychologically, it’s not the same. I have these anxieties and am an adopted child. This is why I think we should be more patient of “Kind parents” comments. I do feel differently about “Kind parents” comments that hint at the parents’ sacrificial-charity. Adoptees shouldn’t feel they are indebted to their adoptive parents. 
A few times in my life I’ve had questions and imagined alternate life stories. I’ve felt sad and anxious, but more often they are born out of curiosity, or a selfish thirst for personal drama during a dull period of life. Most, if not all of these instances have happened in adulthood. They never last longer than a good nights’ sleep. 
I argue adoptions need not be areas of contention. Being adopted doesn’t mean every identity crisis thereafter must be scrutinized and pinned on adoption. I recognize adoptees that experience mixed feelings about their identities and those who believe  they are victims of a bureaucratic/political system.
Are some adoptions shady? Yes. Are there adoptees who shouldn’t have been put up for adoption? Yes. Do adoptee issues need a louder voice in social discussions? Yes.
However. 
Do I think we should move to a no-adoption model? No. Do I think all adoptees would be psychologically/emotionally better off with their birth families? No. Must all adoptees experience an identity crises due to being adopted? No. 
Over the years, I’ve felt more anxiety and guilt over not being emotional about my birth parents than I have wondering why I was put up for adoption. I have asked myself,”Am I bad birth child/adoptee for not having this crisis? Is something wrong with me?”
No. 
Am I a successful adoption? No, because being a successful adoption, means there are failed adoptions and I don’t think adoption is a pass or fail thing. Adoption means to accept one as their own. A parent can’t become ‘unparented’ from their birth child, regardless of either party’s emotional beliefs or identity. So, I feel, it should also be for adopted children. As an adoptee, no, I didn’t choose to be adopted, but nor did my older brothers choose to be born into the family they’re a part of. Speaking for myself, I’m ok with these cards Life dealt me and have not felt the need to soul search beyond curiosity. Of course, I am one amongst thousands of other adoptees.
I’m not against adoptees who speak out against adoption. I’m not against adoptees who wish to be reunited with their birth parents. Like me, they have their own personal experiences and want to give voice to their issues. As adoptees, I think it’s good to recognize each other and share our stories.

18 comments:

  1. Dear Kristie
    Your daughter writes beautifully of her experience as part of your family.
    I followed the link to the other article and I was saddened that people have found it OK to make such hateful comments to children. Seeing love and hate in close proximity made it all the more difficult.
    Thanks for sharing
    Dawn

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  2. What an amazing account of life! You are obviously a wonderful family who may have come from different places, but a family is in my mind a group of people who live as a family, not necessarily people who were born to or from another. My "Dad" is my stepfather, but he is my Dad and always will be. I have no desire to see my biological father or know anything about him, because I don't need another Dad, I already have one and he is wonderful. Love is what makes a family and that is what is most important to me. I wish you all a very long and very happy family life together that only gets better and better as the years pass. xx

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  3. Thank you for sharing your daughters' reply, so enlightening. I too followed the links and am truly amazed at the cruelty of others. You have a lovely family and it is obvious how much they are all truly loved

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  4. I love the wisdom and maturity with which your daughter tackles this sometimes controversial topic, Kristie. You are obviously a very loving and close family and you and your husband have brought up five children who are secure in their relationships with you and each other and confident in their dealings with the rest of the world. That's all any parent could hope for.

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  5. As an adoptee, I felt that I was very special. I had been chosen. My birth mother gave me a chance for a better life than she could provide. It was an act of great love and sacrifice.
    When I got older I realized that the parts of my family members I did't like I could sluff off with the thought that I wasn't related to them genetically. The parts I loved and wanted to emulate I thought of as an environmental osmosis and that I would inherit them that way.

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  6. Like all things in life, when we attach a label to something, people will feel they need to have an opinion about it and will take sides as a way to deal with their own feelings if they should be put in that situation. The thing to remember is that a person's behavior (like the questions people asked those who had been adopted) is an expression of how they feel about themselves--their own fears, beliefs. We are just catalysts forcing them to deal with it.

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  7. Thank you for sharing this Kristie. Your daughter wrote a beautiful piece which radiates the love and devotion she has for her siblings and you and Jay as parents. She exudes an air of confidence about her life and you must be very proud of her. God bless.
    Patricia x

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  8. This is beautifully written and I'm glad she expressed her feelings on the subject. She seems like a wonderful young woman.

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  9. Kristie, your daughter Rebekah is awesome. As an adoptive parent, it is really wonderful to read about her experiences and feelings. When we prepared for adoption, the voice of the adult adoptee was missing from the courses and preparation groups. I know everybody makes different experiences, but it would have been nice to speak to one or two adoptees then. I'll pop over to Rebekah's Tumblr page and thank her for her words. Thank you Kristie, for sharing her post. Christina x

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    1. Oops, I don't seem to be able to comment on your daughter's blog. Please could you pass on a heart felt thank you? Cx

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  10. As an adoptee, married to another adoptee, what I know is that our stories are, as Rebekah noted, as original and different as a birth child's story. There is no encompassing 'adoptee experience'. There is no 'perfect adoption' just as there is no 'perfect family'. There are just families, with stories.
    Rebekah's words were lovely.

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  11. Kristie, what a lovely and thoughtful young woman you raised! Thank you, Rebekah....you just made your family very proud.

    Barbara M. In NH

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  12. Rebekah writes beautifully and she has made a wonderful tribute to you two as adoptive parents, Kristie. I am in awe of you for raising five children, some with special needs. You are a very special person. And clearly Rebekah has inherited the writing gene from you, her clever wordsmith Mum!

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  13. Rebekah is a smart person and is a wonderful writer--I miss her old blog. For some reason tumblr makes me feel like I've gone through the looking glass. Anyway, I really like what she said about each person having their own experiences and being allowed to have their own voice. I also like her view that the story about how she joined the family is no different than all of the many other family stories. That's exactly right. I wonder if having a story-telling grandmother helped nurture and support that view??? :)

    About the HP article. ignorance manifests itself in ways that are so often hurtful, I have a hard time remembering the people are not intentionally being mean. Except for the ones who are. As I read the comments in the HP article, I found myself wondering how much the speakers actually understood about love. As a topic, adoption is very interesting. For years I thought I was adopted. The thought still pops up occasionally, but not seriously. I know that I spent my first six months with an aunt...and that it was a terrible day for her when my dad came for me. Loving people have a bothersome habit of bonding--thank goodness!

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    1. I miss her old blog too, Rick. I don't understand how Tumblr works, and have never even figured out how to leave a comment on a Tumblr blog. I'm sure her story-telling grandma has had a huge influence on her. :-)

      As for the HP article, I think ignorance is behind the comments most of the time. It is probably one of the things that set my kids experience apart from many other adoptees. They spent most of their growing up years in a small community that had a huge number of adoptees. This meant that the community as a whole had sort of been educated about adoption, and that education translated into fewer of the kinds of comments you saw in that article. That isn't to say we never heard them. Just not as often.

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  14. PS - Please tell me when I say dumb things. It's the only way I'll learn!

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    1. I have yet to see you say anything dumb. :-)

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  15. A beautifully thought out and well written post by your wonderful daughter. As I am in the midst of adopting, you know this was well worth it for me to read. Thank her for me.
    Meredith

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