Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with Anna, a fellow WordPress blogger, to talk about adoption.
Casey: So, Anna, tell me a little about your adoption.
Anna: I was adopted domestically, with a family whose ethnic origins are similar to my own. I’ve been with my adoptive family from birth but I was “officially” adopted when I was almost a year old.
C: How would you describe your parents’ relationship?
A: They are such a team; it’s cute and annoying. I could NEVER play one off the other (I tried to get a dog, once…it didn’t work). They love each other and take care of each other. They’ve had a strong marriage almost 30 years and they’re incredible people. My friend says, “your parents are like finches; they mate for life.” They gave me a very solid foundation on which to build my life.
C: How would you describe your relationship with your parents?
A: I was always a Dad’s girl. It took me many, many years to stop being angry with my mother. My younger brother (also adopted) got all of her time and attention as we grew up. He is close to me in age and special needs, so I was often given to Dad. As such, we have a really close relationship. After I moved out, Mum and I were able to create a really loving bond (which I also credit to that solid foundation), and we’re as close as Dad and I are now.
C: What are some of the things they really “got right” as they parented?
A: Punishments. They used to ‘ground’ me; I went to school, came home from school. Nothing else.
Also, they let me calm down, write it out, and THEN they’d bring me out of my room to talk about it. I had an awful temper as a older child/teenager, but I think this worked because they weren’t trying to have an immediate conversation with me. They were very supportive, encouraging and they both have really good senses of humor – which I think you need to be a good parent.
C: What do you wish they’d done differently?
A: I wish they’d talked about me and my accomplishments more. I often felt like I played second fiddle to my younger brother.
C: Do you mind talking about your birth family?
A: Not at all. I always wanted my mum in my life. I have contact with everyone on my mum’s side: my maternal grandmother, mother, mother’s brother and his wife, my older brother and younger brother.
C: How did you get in contact with them?
A: My adoption was ‘semi-open’. I had contact with my maternal grandparents, and they provided a home where my older brother and I could spend time together. I stayed there about one week every couple of years. Once he and I got older, we started talking to each other over instant messaging.
A: How would you describe your current relationship(s) with your birth family?
C: I get on well with Nana and my Uncle and Aunt; it’s boring and supportive (in a nice way). My brothers and I have put in some decent sibling time over the last couple years, so we enjoy each other’s company. I was one of the first people my brother called when he found out he and his wife are expecting! As for my mother… we were very close. Then I moved to be closer to her, but she seemed to slip away from me. She and her husband have recently moved to another city.
A: How did that affect you?
C: For the first four months I felt like I was drowning. I was also suicidal for a time, because the pressure in my head was too much to bear. There’s a line I wrote in my blog which I think explains it: “it felt like my life had been ripped open; scattering memories into the air. When I could drag myself up, I would try and catch them and wrap them back up into myself but it didn’t always work. Things that had been precious, suddenly felt like lies. Those memories couldn’t belong to me, because I wasn’t me anymore. I was in the wrong family, had the wrong life, had all the wrong memories.”
My relationship with my birth mum was once just so incredible and happy and everything I wanted, and now it’s splintered. Sometimes it grates at me and I get sad. But I write, and try to put it to one side, until I have time to sit and feel and acknowledge those feelings, before letting them go.
I had been so convinced, for 21 years, that she hated me, but instead I found that she loved me so much, it hurt. I will say that the “Mum hates me” message that I had drummed into myself for so long is almost impossible to let go of completely. Our reunion was, for two years, almost absolutely everything I could’ve dreamed for. Now it is disappointing. I believe it’s something called ‘secondary rejection,’ which can come from either side of the birthmother/adoptee duo.
C: If your connection with birth family had any effect on your adoptive family, what was it?
A: My Mum went into therapy for a while, and my Dad was very angry. But they are amazing people, and still supported me and encouraged me, and picked me up every time I curled up in the fetal position and cried.
C: What are your thoughts on adoption in general?
A: Oh god, okay. Brutally honest? If the mother is capable and has family and government support, she should keep the child. My mother raised a child for three years before I came along. I firmly believe she could’ve done it, and it is a huge wedge in our relationship that she didn’t. Every adoption situation is different though, so I’d be loath to comment on all of them.
C: How do you define yourself?
A: As an adoptee. But also as my parents’ daughter. A writer and a reader. I watch too many TV shows. I get invested in characters. I love dialogue. I’d like to think I’m kind, compassionate and helpful as well. I laugh a lot. I also collect mothers (weird, right?). When I say collecting mothers…this is figurative, obviously. I’ve been very fortunate to meet strong, affectionate older females who like to step into the ‘mum’ role from time to time. For example, where I work now, I appear to have been adopted by the other three women in my team (as I’m a good 30 years younger than all of them). I’ve known my two best friends since age two, so their mothers are practically mine as well!
C: Did being adopted make you feel different?
A: Yes. I was teased about it in primary school. I hated every science class when we studied genetics (although I found them fascinating, they still hurt). I didn’t like family projects in general.
C: Do you feel there are struggles (emotional, mental, academic, behavioral) specific to adopted children?
A: I think there are emotional struggles. I think every child has the right to a personal relationship with the woman who put them on the earth. I struggled with leaving my older brother when I was little, because I’d have to go back to a world where I was the oldest. The earlier the integration/relationship starts, the better. Children are much more adaptable than people think they are, I believe.
C: What did you really “get right” as you grew up?
A: Well, my clothing choice improved. And I washed the purple dye out of my hair. But I also always understood why I was feeling a certain way, because I trained myself to acknowledge the feeling, explore it and understand it.
C: What do you wish you had done differently?
A: I wish I could’ve controlled my temper better, and not lashed out at innocent people.
C: If you have the opportunity to adopt, do you think you’ll do it?
A: Depends. If someone brought me a baby/child/teenager and said “you’re the best for them,” then of course I would. But if the child can talk, I’d have to ask their opinion.
C: What’s your advice to others (either to adoptive parents or adopted children, or both)?
A: You should definitely talk about adoption. Talk about the family, share the information that you know.
If you’re an adoptee going through reunion, you’ll experience a lot of memories and feelings very quickly and your brain won’t be able to catch them all. Keep a journal; write down important stories, thoughts, even shared text messages. Write about the good, and the bad. You’ll be happy to have it later on when the calm comes.
As an adoptive parent, don’t shelter your child from their adoption. They’re the main character in their own story. Let them in on it.
C: Any last thoughts?
A: Be true to who you are. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Jump in with your heart open, because you can never regret fully immersing yourself in an experience, even if it things don’t turn out the way you imagined.
Anna is in her early twenties and lives in New Zealand with her two super-cute kitties. She’s currently attending university for an English degree, but her true passion is forensic anthropology. You can follow her blog at Lookingforyellow.wordpress.com.