Category Archives: Adoptee Stuff

So, what happened to you since we last heard from you, Angela?

First, if you are new here, I encourage you to click on the menu or questions across the top, below the floral photo. It’s a start. You may also click through the Archives to read through past posts and catch yourself up with my story…

….Yeah, I took a break from the blog. It’s been a journey to say the very least…Allow me to expand on this for a few posts…

Until late 2014, I would say my story was pretty charmed for an adoptee in reunion. My (adoptive) family supported my birth family reunion. My birth mother was loving and eager to build a relationship. My extended birth family was welcoming and open. Then, the bottom of my world fell out. My dad suffered lethal injuries in a workplace accident. We spent a week at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, hoping for good news, monitoring Dad’s oxygen levels, watching his swelling go down enough to recognize his face again… We knew the brain swelling was the reason he hadn’t woken up to tease us or gripe about his exposed feet (he ALWAYS wore socks) or sing along (badly) with his favorite singer-songwriters. When the world-class neurologists told us their findings and his prognosis, we knew what his choice would be. We took him off life-support and said our final goodbyes only seven hours later. My daddy was gone. Everything had changed.

I tried to maintain my relationship with my birthmother for the next 18 months…We had been doing weekly Skype calls, in Spanish. But after Dad died, I could barely think in English, let alone Spanish. It took several months to decide that I needed to just email with her. At least then I could use (and correct) Google Translate instead of relying on my own frazzled and grief-stricken mind to do the interpreting.

And then at some point, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was something she said…I’m sure she was trying to empathize and relate to me, encourage me that I would find joy again after Dad’s death, but that’s not what I wanted to hear from her. Every time I saw her name in my inbox, I’d start to panic. My Boyfriend (at the time, now Fiance) could always tell that I was more anxious when she would email. I was in a fragile place and aaaaall the emotions of losing Dad and not receiving what I needed from her put me over the edge. I had to ask her to not contact me until I contacted her. I had to just pause it.

I have said for the past four years, “If I told 16-year-old me that I quit talking to our birthmother, she would cry and say WHAT?!?!” I also know that my 16-year-old self wouldn’t believe me that Dad dies when we’re 30…Would I really have been nicer to him as a teen if I had known? Damn, I sure hope so.

But back to the adoption part…. After I stopped talking to my birthmother, I was nervous for awhile that she would try to contact me. When my birthday came around, I half wanted her to reach out and half wanted her to stay away. Was I disappointed when my birthday came and went and she didn’t reach out? Yes. Was I also relieved? Yes. Honestly, the timing is fuzzy at this point. I can’t remember when I finally decided that I needed help. I sought out a therapist in my state to help me deal with the grief of losing Dad. We realized through EMDR and inner child work and LOTS of tears (me, not the therapist!) that Dad’s death and the resulting grief brought up a lot of unprocessed grief of losing my birthmother as a newborn. What, you say? You were surrendered so young, how could you possibly have known that she was missing? Wasn’t your adoptive family enough? You weren’t even in your birthcountry long enough to learn the language? The answers are yes, no, and yeah, I know, but here’s the thing: We’re not the blank slates adoption agencies, in the 1980s in particular, claimed we were. None of us are really. More on this science in a future post, I’m sure.

Since I’ve ended our contact, I’ve thought a lot about my future and my birthmother’s place in it. Sometimes I miss her. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever talk to her again. Sometimes I think maybe her role in my life is done. She gave me some answers about my past, but the real questions, the ones that keep me seeing a therapist, remain. She can’t help me with those questions. That’s my work to do.

What’s gotten you in such a huff?

I wrote the following post on Facebook a few weeks ago.  I’d had enough.

“I just read a funny post about things adoptees don’t want to hear. Yup, it was funny, and most of it, I agreed with. But I’m starting to get pissed off about people ragging on Gotcha Day. If you don’t like Gotcha Day, or don’t want one, don’t have one! Leave me and my family’s understanding and celebration of Gotcha Day to us. And just because we still celebrate it, doesn’t mean my brother and I don’t understand why people don’t like it. That doesn’t make us bad adoptees. So there. *steps off soapbox*”

Someone asked me what a Gotcha Day is in the first place….This was my response.

“Okay, essentially, a Gotcha Day is the day an adoptive family celebrates either the day the parents and child met for the first time, or maybe the day that legally the adoption passed. Some, many I guess, say that the term “Gotcha” is very skewed to the adoptive parent perspective. That it suggests a child is something to be gotten, obtained, an object. That the term ignores the whole side of the birth parent, their pain, even the pain of separation for the adoptee. Some families use the term Adoption Day or Family Day or something like that.  Apparently a lot of adoptees are quite incensed that families celebrate this day in the first place.

For me, my birthday has always been bittersweet – I’d think about my mother and what she must have been doing and thinking that day. Did she love me? Did she think about me? I didn’t have those answers until just a year ago when we reunited. But my Gotcha Day, now that was a concrete day that I knew I was loved. I was placed in my parents’ arms on November 19, 1984, and every year, even now, I get giddy and ask Mom for “the story” – the only true story until last year that I knew for sure. My parents and I have a fantastic relationship. And a few weeks ago I talked to my mom about Gotcha Days. She listened to my concerns about what so many people have been saying. She asked if I felt that way, negative about the name and the day. And I said, well I didn’t? I don’t feel like you ignored my mother by celebrating this day every year….So yeah, that’s basically the debate. I get it, for some families whose parents probably don’t have such an open relationship, a Gotcha Day might be a huge source of friction and pain for the adoptee. But not in my family. And it’s just gotten to a point, reading about it everywhere, that I had to say something.”

This is the link to the original post that got me so huffy.  While I’m really glad that Gazillion Voices exists, I do find that I don’t agree with everything they publish.  Or promote.  And that’s great.  I mean, the likelihood that all adoptees everywhere agree on every issue is…..crazy.  And we all can’t be crazy.  So anyway, leave me a message if you have any questions about Gotcha Day.  And thanks for reading.

http://gazillionvoices.com/guest-piece-by-christina…/…

What do you wish you had the opportunity to read before your reunion?

Someone posted a link to this blog on a Facebook group I’m in and I checked it out.  Now, I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with the purpose of the blog in general, but I love the re-posted part of this entry.  I haven’t written much about my actual reunion yet, but Ms. Verishine manages to capture many of the words and feelings I would use.  I think the points she lays out are really useful to keep in mind when approaching a reunion relationship.

I’ll include the link to the original blog I lifted this from below.

Posted by Mirah Riben on Friday, March 22, 2013 on the blog called “Family Preservation      Advocate: The Blog of Advocate Publications”:

 

Reunification of Adoption-Separated Persons

When the media has asked me about reunion outcomes I always tell them that just like all other     interpersonal relationships, they run the gamut from great to awful and everything in between and many – as we all know – can go back and forth and back again.  Parent and adult child relationships are difficult as is, but add the baggage of feelings of rejection, guilt, feelings of betrayal, loss, shock, anger, feelings of abandonment….and you’ve got a powder-keg waiting to explode.

When adoptees or parents who have relinquished ask me about reunion I have often said: Expect nothing except to find the truth. Whatever you find, good, bad or indifferent will be your truth.  I also usually remind searchers that they are proceeding at their pace in their time and readiness, but the person they are finding and seeking to enter into a reunion with is totally unprepared and caught off-guard. They often need time to readjust to this new reality.

Recently, a Facebook conversation led to another point of view.  The views expressed by “Buck Wheat” as she is known online, were so thoughtful and insightful, so  important to share that I asked her to write a guest blog post. 

I hope it opens a healthy and helpful discussion.

Here it is:

Reunion and Expectations

by Charlene Verishine
I hear both moms and adoptees say to enter into reunion with no expectations. I believe this is misguided advice. I also believe it is impossible. I cannot count the number of times I have read or heard adoptees and moms say I had no expectations but it isn’t long before I hear them say what they found wasn’t what they expected! Remember, you are entering into      reunion because YOU believe you are ready. Expect that there may never be the perfect time for those you find and they may not be ready.
From my experience and research, here is what I believe we can reasonably expect.
We can expect to find a wounded soul. I know it seems obvious but it’s important to               remember because we need to be kind, gentle, and compassionate with the trauma survivor. We can expect that there may be some sort of self-medicating for the pain. Be it drugs       (prescription or illicit), alcohol, workaholics, or food. It’s natural for humans to self-medicate and we should not condemn or judge them for it.
We can expect that our “other” (I use the term ‘other’ when referring to adoptees or moms. It is for brevity and not intended to diminish anyone) may not be able to face their pain thus unable to acknowledge ours. It isn’t their fault! People are ready to face it at their own pace and we must respect that. Setting an example of facing our own is all we can really do. Tell anyone who isn’t ready that they might have ‘adoption issues’ and you’ll likely be met with rage. Haven’t we all seen someone scream ‘I’m NOT angry’ complete with the red face, vein pulsing in their forehead after you ask them why they are so angry? It is easy to believe they are being self absorbed, don’t care how we are affected, flawed for not being strong enough to see their own let alone our pain but it is simply fear. There is no value, comfort or healing in taking it personally because it isn’t.
We can expect that people don’t understand the difference between feelings, beliefs, and the truth. This certainly isn’t isolated to adoptoworld. Understanding the differences is      critical! By far, this is the most important thing I’ve learned in my journey. It made the          difference of feeling crushing pain and despair to understanding and compassion.  Feelings and beliefs fluctuate. The truth is constant. Feelings are happy, sad, angry, shame, etc.        Feelings are never wrong, they just are. We need to honor, and validate them. Beliefs are a different matter and it is healthy to question them, it isn’t disrespectful. I find myself          explaining these differences most often when talking with moms and adoptees about           rejection and abandonment. I am very careful to challenge beliefs, not feelings. I challenge those that say ‘I feel rejected. I feel abandoned’. I do that because those aren’t feelings, they are beliefs! I strongly believe that there is no rejection of people in reunion – ever. It is a         rejection of the pain, not us.
We can expect that trauma victims may not know what the truth is. Just because our other says something doesn’t make it true. You will be told their beliefs but they could be false and can’t be assumed the truth. This is counter-intuitive, I know. The brainwashing by society and the adoption industry affects us all at some time to some degree. I lied to myself and lived in denial to survive. The fog is very powerful. It wasn’t long ago that I would’ve said I had a choice, that I had no regrets. Those were my false beliefs and not the truth. As with everything with adoption, you can’t take anything at face value and must look deeper.  Does anyone out of the fog really believe the adoptee that says adoption had no affect on me? Do we believe the rape victim that says it was her fault?
We can expect that we, or our other, may unconsciously sabotage our reunion. This can       happen when we believe inherently (often unconsciously) that somehow we are unlovable, that we don’t deserve good things in our life, we can’t trust anyone. How can one not have a seed of the belief of being unlovable when the one who was supposed to love them the most left them? Moms tell themselves they are unlovable because what kind of person gets themselves in a position to lose a child to adoption? We may believe we aren’t worthy of a           relationship, that they are better off without us. Our misguided belief of ‘rejection’ may       terrify us and give us any reason to ditch our other. A get them before they get me defense mechanism. What can be most confusing is that a pullback can come when reunions are      going well. It’s the realization of all that we’ve lost and will never get back that can cause some to put the brakes on. Again, it’s the pain being rejected, not the person.
We can expect that reunion will bring grief to the surface. I didn’t start to grieve the loss of my son until after we met face to face. Grief can cause us to lash out at our other or anyone else. It is akin to having psychological sunburn. Things that would not normally hurt, the slightest touch can cause an extreme pain reaction. The grief can seem never ending. I found making a list helped. Putting it down on paper stopped it from being free-floating. It allowed me to give it the respect and acknowledgement it deserved. I don’t hold back the tears anymore. I hope that one day I’ll discover I don’t need to add to the list anymore.
We can expect that social graces we give and receive from those close to us may not apply in adoptoworld. For example, a friend would return your call or email in a day or two. We need to understand that our other may need time to process, may have an uncontrollable urge to prove that you aren’t that important. You see, we convince ourselves that it hurts less when we diminish the value and importance of our other. Another false belief because trying to    ignore our pain certainly doesn’t make it go away. We’d all be pain free if that actually worked!
We can expect that if setting healthy boundaries is hard for us it will be exponentially more difficult with our other. We all have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. It is      natural for adoption to cause ‘nuclear’ rage and it could be directed to our other instead of the adoption industry where it belongs. It isn’t fair or right but understandable. Moms need to have compassion and patience for their kids that vehemently exclaim that we had a choice; there wasn’t a gun to your head. Expect that the miniscule exception to the rule, the ‘dumpster babies’, women who just don’t want to parent, abortion will be referenced.
We can expect regression. Moms will often regress to the age when they lost their child. I’ve seen my son regress to the contemptuous teenager, raging toddler and then to the kind, contemplative adult in mere moments. I couldn’t believe the youthful energy I had upon     reunion. The downside was that some of the immature attitudes came through as well. The world was once again black and white and not the spectrum of gray that comes with           experience and maturity. This wasn’t constant but my younger ‘inner child’ would come through when triggered.  I’m grateful I was able to recognize that when my son said he never wanted to see or speak to me again it was his inner child coming through. If I took him at his word, face value, I would have left him alone and it could’ve been decades before we reconnected again, if ever. I followed the advice of a wise adoptee and continued to send my notes of loving and missing you every month or so. After over a year of silence, he has        responded. I know there will be mountains and valleys on our path but I will never give up hope!
We can expect that we can’t travel this journey alone. We need the support and compassion of those that are on the same journey and those that have travelled before us. It takes work to know something intellectually and to know it in our bones. I believe it is our responsibility to face our own pain. I believe we have a duty to learn about our other’s experience and pain, too. Above all, we cannot judge and condemn them for not facing their pain or healing on our schedule. We need to accept where they are. We can only change ourselves.

We can expect that our capacity for love, compassion, and empathy can carry us through.”

May a reader request information about something? Will you look it up?

Of course!  I’ll do my best to research your question and get you an answer!

One question that came up during a conversation with several adoptive parents once was about glasses for their Korean born children.  Ah hah!  I said, I just saw that a friend posted something on Facebook about glasses for Asian faces.  Why would an Asian face matter you ask?  Because the shape of many Asian faces doesn’t really support most glasses frames.  The bridge of a person’s nose, ya know, the sticky outty part that nose pieces rest on, is flatter on many Asian faces.  So glasses just sliiiide right down a person’s nose.  So here’s the link!  I can’t actually endorse the product since I haven’t tried it, but here’s the information for you all to make your own judgments.

http://www.tc-charton.com/asian-fit-eyewear.aspx

It makes sense though right?  I’m trying to think of other products targeted toward a certain group.  The first thing that comes to mind are oils and special shampoos for African-type hair that can dry out quickly with mainstream products.

What else is there?  Leave a comment if you think of something!

What’s your relationship like with your brother?

Everyone asks if Brother is my real brother.  Why yes, he is.  What they mean to ask is if we’re biological siblings.  No, Brother and I are adopted siblings – we do not have the same birthmother.  His skin is darker than mine.  And he looks more indigenous than I do.  And there’s only one picture of us as little kids that we really look alike.  But it doesn’t really matter.  Because I love him with all my heart.

You see, I adore my brother.  My first memories of anything start when Brother was a baby.  I remember taking a bottle out of the microwave for Mom and into the living room where she was rocking him.  We grew up in the country, miles away from town and neighbors.  We played “Ship” on the bunk beds in his room as kids.  Made forts in the woods around our house and in the nook of the balcony on the third floor of our house.  We splashed in muddy water by the mailbox when we’d had a hard rain.  He threw his Ninja Turtles at me when he was five, and I screamed at him when he ripped the head off my first Barbie.  However, as brothers and sisters go, we almost always got along.  We had to, there were no other kids around!

Once in school, our three year age difference seemed to grow for awhile.  I was already learning how to multiply and divide when he was learning to write his name.  We were still close but started making our own friends.  I couldn’t wait to be a senior because it meant my freshman brother was in the same school as me.  The hugs I gave him in front of his friends were met with rolling eyes and reluctant acceptance of the embarrassment that a freshman brother just has to take from his senior sister.  I was a manager for the boys soccer team (Brother loved playing soccer), and I loved that watching and traveling to soccer matches was a family affair.

I started college the next year, and I think Brother was happy to take the spotlight at home.  We’d talk on the phone once in awhile when I called home, but he mostly kept to himself and his friends.  Jump ahead two years and he was ready to start college too.  We had something in common again and would chat about how it was to be in school.  He’d ask for dating tips sometimes, and I’d cherish the thought that he valued my advice.  The next few years for me consisted of one to two year work/grad school commitments so I was home for the holidays and in the summers a bit.  I remember studying anatomy with Brother and quizzing him during his last year at school.  He worked so damn hard at school.  I’ve never heard of anyone else working so hard.  I still regret not coming home for his college graduation.  I should have been there.  I’m so very proud of what he accomplished.

Last year we started talking about returning to Colombia for the anniversary of our orphanage.  We told Mom and Dad of our plans, and as bummed as they were not to be invited, they were proud of us for deciding to go on this journey together.  Brother and I planned and plotted our trip, getting excited about where to go and what to do.  He was in charge of plane tickets to Cartagena, and I was in charge of plane tickets and a hotel in Bogotá.  We flew from our respective cities to Ft. Lauderdale where we could board a plane and fly to Colombia together.

We landed in Bogota and were met by the staff of our guesthouse.  Right away they reminded us how generous Colombians are, treating us to lunch at the guesthouse.  We settled in, took a nap, and figured out what to do next.  Throughout the trip, we truly enjoyed each other and Brother supported me in a BIG way (which I will explain when I write about my birth family search).  Since we’ve returned from Colombia, I’ve gone through Brother-withdrawal.  It’s a big deal to travel to your birthcountry with a sibling and experience all that we did and then go back to living half the country away from each other.  We chat on the phone or text pretty often now, and I know our trip brought us closer together.

Whatever comes for us- jobs, families, taking care of Mom and Dad someday – it will be just that much more manageable because we can count on each other.  There’s just something so special about the trust and love between a brother and sister.  I say to him every year on September 27, “So so so glad we gotcha, Brother!”

So what do you think of being adopted, Angela? Did you ever want to search for your birthfamily?

I was probably 23 when I first realized, no joke, that I would always be adopted.  I realized that I would never be unadopted.  I’d always be part of my adoptive family.  I would never be completely on my own.  Which was a comfort.  I also realized I wouldn’t magically become part of my birth family once I turned eighteen either.  And that was a little sad.

I do like being adopted most of the time.  It’s part of what makes me unique, it makes me interesting that I was born somewhere else.  It’s a story to tell.  I like being in the adoption club.

Have I ever thought about searching.  Yes, yes I have.  I’d always idealized my birthmother and had always wanted to meet her.  I wanted her to tell me I was special, tell me that she loved me.  Tell me it was hard for her to let me go, that I wasn’t easy to get rid of.  Off and on, once I had access to the internet, I’d search her name and copy and paste all the matches to a word document.  I always labeled it “her.”

In spring 2011 I was a second year graduate student and trying to finish my Masters thesis.  I was up late one night writing when I searched online again.  This time, I found two references of her using her name and her cédula (like Colombia’s social security number).  The first was some evidence of a transfer of money; I wasn’t really sure what it was.  The second reference looked like a court docket….ah jeez.  Um, does that mean my birthmother is a FELON?!?

Turns out no, thank goodness.  I double checked on a few websites and found my answer on the Colombian Judicial Branch’s website: my birthmother is a registered federal attorney.  Well hell’s bells.  Don’t that beat all.  I called Mom at 1:30 in the morning to tell her the news.  She was happy for me, albeit quite sleepy of course.  Just any bit of information about my birthfamily was everything to me!  I could begin to imagine her daily life, maybe the way she dressed, what she did with her time.  She began to be a real person, not just an abstract.  I somehow found a website for Bogotá’s white pages; I searched her name and one, just one contact came up.  Of course I cried!  I looked up the address on Google Maps and thought that maybe I really had found her.  The area of town that she lived in was a moderate to upscale part of town, which is where I might expect a lawyer to live.  Next I happened onto a site that could tell you where a person last registered to vote.  I plugged in her cédula and confirmed that she voted in the vicinity of where the white pages said she lived.  Hot damn!  It is her!

I sat on the information for about a year.  I was wrapped up with finishing my thesis, finding a job, and figuring out what to do with my life.  I joined two Facebook groups for adult Colombian adoptees and was busy getting to know my new friends from around the world.  And honestly, I was pretty freaked out that all my dreams about my birthmother might become a reality.  And letting go of my dreams for reality is pretty freaking scary.  …My friends and I started talking about returning to Colombia as a group for the 40th anniversary of FANA, and my drive to try to make contact with my birthmother hit turbo…

What did your parents do best with regard to adoption? What do you wish they’d done better?

I’m not a parent.  So whatever I say about advice to parents comes from the perspective of a daughter, not as someone who has put the advice actually into practice.  Just saying.  (Being a kitty-mama doesn’t count for this post!)

I think my parents did a fantastic job of normalizing adoption in our family.  We had adoptive family friends, and I always knew I wasn’t alone.  I wasn’t the only adopted kid out there.  Mom and Dad made sure they had support in their parenting as well.  I would call theirs a three-pronged approach.

Prong 1: Community

We joined the adoption community in our region in several ways.  We met up with other adoptive families in our local area and across the state at a culture camp.  Since we’re so close to Minnesota, the Friends of FANA Minnesota group let us participate in their fun too.  I always knew other internationally adopted kids and still keep in touch through Facebook.

Outside of the adoption community, we celebrated the days that Mom and Dad first held us in Colombia.  Our family uses the term Gotcha Day.  Again, there are strong opinions for and against the use of this term, but it’s what we use.  Gotcha Days are (still) celebrated by Brother or I choosing where to go out to eat for the night.  Telling the wait staff what a Gotcha Day was gave me a chance to show off to the world that we celebrate how we became a family.

I’ve heard stories of parents adopting children of a different race than they and taking the colorblind approach.  Sure, treat your kids like they grew under your heart and not just in it, I can support that.  Treating your kids like they’re no different from every other white kid in town, ignoring the fact that they ARE different, nope, that’s not cool with me.  It’s not cool because transracial families ARE different.  Not addressing the fact that they do look different ignores their feelings and tells them that a huge part of them isn’t worth discussing or celebrating.

Prong 2: Truth

Mom and Dad told me the truth.  Or as much as they could remember anyway!  Whenever I had a question, I knew Mom and Dad would answer as honestly as my maturity allowed.  Even when they didn’t have the answers, they acknowledged that I needed to know something.  They’ve never said, oh Angie don’t worry about that.  Or oh Angie, stop asking questions about that, it’s no big deal.  They didn’t make up stories either.  Whenever I’d ask if my birthmother loved me, Mom would say, yes, I know she did.  She wanted the best thing for you and letting you go to another family was the most amazing show of love she could give.  I know Mom truly believed that it was the truth.

Prong 3: Respect

That’s another thing I appreciate about my parents – they’ve always respected our birthmothers.  They never belittled our birthmothers’ decision to choose adoption for us.  Mom and Dad never said anything negative about their character, which let me, at least, imagine that my birthmother was a good person.  I can’t imagine feeling pressure from my parents to feel that my birthmother was somehow beneath us and our American ways.

Ya know they also respected our culture.  Colombia has been trashed in the media for drugs and corruption.  And it’s true, there have been plenty of issues in Colombia, but that’s not what hits you when you step into the capital city’s mountain air.  Colombians are beautiful and gracious and just plain wonderful.  Mom and Dad tried to instill pride in Brother and I for our birthcountry.  A fun thing they did was purchase a Latin American cookbook so we could fix Colombian foods.  But they didn’t just do it for us, they truly loved the country that gave them their children.

I know other adoptees whose parents suggested that their birthcountry  should be forgotten, I know they’ve suffered from such pressure.  I hope for those parents that they can find a peace within themselves so their children have peace and pride in their story…

 

Now what would I change?

As far as my adoption story goes, I actually wouldn’t change anything about how I grew up.  That’s pretty awesome.  Aside from my adoption story, looking back, I wish they’d had been a little stricter.  Ha, no child has said that ever.  They probably should have made us do more chores.  Or at least do them without so much complaining.

When did your parents tell you you were adopted?

The truth is, they never told me.  I just always knew.  I was pretty little at the time, but I remember being at the Iowa Families for International Adoption Retreat in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  I had adoptee friends from Korea, India, and other places.  I remember eating grapes in the loft of our cabin with those friends.  I also remember going to Chutes and Ladders in the Twin Cities, Minnesota for the Friends of FANA annual picnic when I was little.  I loved going down the biggest slide and trying to hide from Mom and Dad in the maze of ladders.  Then there were the North Iowa Adoption Group meetings at our friends’ houses.  Lots of food and games and fun with the other kids!

What I’m trying to say is that Mom and Dad made it normal for us kids that our family was made through adoption.  I had tons of friends who were from adoptive families.  We had vacations and day trips that were centered around being an adoptive family.  But it wasn’t like, let’s go be an adoptive family this weekend kids!  It was, let’s go hang out and eat grapes and Ritz crackers with cheese and salami with our friendsAnd let’s pack your ruanas and Colombian t-shirts so we can wear them for the parade through the camp!  Being an adoptive family was just part of what made our family special.  It’s just who we are.  Being adopted is just who I am.

You promised, let’s hear it, what’s the story…Wishbone! Anyone? Bueller?

*Time out*

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago.  It’s gone through a couple of drafts because I changed my story.  The first draft of my post started with my birth, but now I realize that the story doesn’t really start there.  As you may have guessed, I found my birthfamily this past summer.  Since I’ve met my birthmother, she’s told me the story from her perspective, starting before I was conceived.  And at a certain point, her story becomes my story.  So the second draft began to incorporate information she’s given me in the past several months.  And that’s an interesting concept.  My adoption story has changed.  It no longer starts with “I was born…” and I think this is one of the first times I’ve started the story earlier in time.  For the past 27 or so years I’ve started my story the same way and now that’s all changed.  I will write more about my search and reunion in the future, but I wanted to share my thoughts about this post to inform you of the fluid nature of story and personal narrative.

*Time in*

Once upon a time, long, long ago in a land far, far away, a baby was conceived in Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá.  Colombia at the time was plagued by drug violence and a bad reputation.  For one beautiful young woman, those national issues were the farthest things from her mind.  She was pregnant and in school and knew that for her life and for her child’s life, she had to make a very difficult decision.  She sought the help and consult of women at the Hogar de Marguerite d’Youville in Bogotá.  They advised her of her options.  She chose to make an adoption plan, and as her due date drew closer, she imparted her hopes and dreams to the life within.  Baby Teresita was born on a Monday and on Tuesday she was taken to the Fundación para la Asistencia de los Niños Abandonados (FANA) orphanage.

Meanwhile, a continent to the north, two wonderful people were going about their normal Tuesday routine when the husband received a call at work.  The caller notified him that the day prior a beautiful baby girl was born and now waited for them in Colombia.  They did lots more paperwork, and two months later packed their bags and boarded the flight of their lives to Bogotá. 

(Here’s an adorable story – Dad said that I looked like a monkey when he first saw me.  It’s true, I had lots of black hair, was very tiny and hairy.  Actually, I was probably more chimpanzee looking than, like, capuchin looking.  Which means I looked like an ape and not a monkey, but I digress…)

The infant girl came home and charmed her parents for about two and a half years before they added her brother to the family.  The children’s happy childhoods were full of adventures with their grandparents, seeing their cousins on holidays, school, and chocolate chip cookies cut like gingerbread men.  All along their parents made their adoption stories something special within the family and gave the children all the love in the world.  This is not to say there weren’t struggles along the way, but both kids graduated from high school, went to college, and turned out pretty well, ready to take on the world!

Coming soon: when I found out I was adopted, what my parents did right, what I think of being adopted, my birthfamily search, and more!

What is an adoptee?

Adoptee.  [ə.da’p.thi].  noun.  Person who legally becomes part of a family to which they were not born.

Unless I express otherwise, I will be referring to the Western sense of adoption from now on.  There are many cultures where adoption is less formal than what I will describe.  Sometimes a child goes from a culture of informal adoption to a culture of formal adoption, and complications ensue…In a few posts, I’ll tell you about my “second” adoption!

Before I tell any more stories though, I need to make sure everyone understands these terms.  As best I can explain, here it is:

There are domestic adoptees – people who were born in Country X and adopted into a family in Country X.

There are international adoptees – people who were born in Country X and adopted into a family in Country Y.  People can be all ages when they are adopted: infants, toddlers, children, tweens, teenagers, young adults, and adults.

Adoptive parents can be men, women, couples, single people, straight, LGBT, young, not as young, married, not married, and stepparents.

Birth parents can be women, men, couples, single people, straight, LGBT, young, not as young, married, not married, and stepparents.  Adoptive parents and birth parents may already have biological children and/or adoptive children already when they adopt.

There are closed adoptions, where the adoptive parents and birth parents do not meet each other and have no ongoing contact with each other.

There are semi-open adoptions, where the birth parents might choose their child’s adoptive parents and/or there is ongoing contact between the families through a mediator, maybe the adoption agency.

There are open adoptions, where the birth family and the adoptive family have ongoing contact.

I came to my family through a closed, international adoption. Lots of people have lots of different opinions on the worth of each type of adoption, but let’s hold off on discussing that for now.

One of my particular interests is the language of adoption.  There are a lot of terms for the same people in the triad (as many professionals call the immediate adoption participants).  I’ll put down all the terms I remember.  Each of the terms below comes with its own connotations and implications.  If you look around online, you’ll soon find strong opinions about the use of each term.  I have my preferences, which I’ll note with an asterisk, and there are terms that I cannot hear without the sound of nails on a chalkboard in my mind.  Blech.

Family that adopts the adoptee: *family, adoptive family…um, I can’t think of any others.

Woman who raises adoptee: adoptive mother, mother, *mom, mommy, mama…

Man who raises adoptee: adoptive father, father, *dad, daddy, papa…

Sibling of adoptee within family who adopts the adoptee: adoptive brother, adoptive sister, *brother, sister

Family that gives birth to the adoptee: *birth family, first family, natural family, biological family, real family…

Woman who gives birth to the adoptee: *birthmother, first mother, natural mother, biological mother, real mother…

Man who participates in conception of adoptee: *birthfather, first father, natural father, biological father, real father, sperm donor…etc.

Sibling of adoptee born to family that gives birth to adoptee: biological sister, biological brother, sister, brother, half-sister, half-brother

In my daily life, I call the woman who raised me Mom.  The man who raised me is Dad.  Together, Mom and Dad are my Parents.  My male sibling who is not my biological sibling but also adopted and raised by my parents is my Brother.  The woman who gave birth to me has always been my Birthmother.  Recently she’s acquired a new name but more on that later.  The family to which I was adopted is my Family, and for circumstances when I must differentiate my families, they are my Adoptive Family.  The family to which I was born has always been my Birth Family.  And I am an adoptee…in addition to a lot more, which I will also explain later.

Shall we let all that sink and give you all a chance to ask questions before I continue?  Yes, let’s.