Author’s note: While adoption has been positive for millions of children around the world since its inception after World War II as a response to the orphan dilemma created by the global conflict, there are many adoptees who have had negative experiences.
Reading this may trigger conflicted feelings about the adoptee experience. I, myself, am an adoptee. I am grateful for my experience. This letter is intended to reach those who feel as though their experience was minimized or ignored by those who had “better” experiences or who were in situations that were less than ideal and have never had the platform to have their voices heard.
This letter is also intended to begin a much needed conversation about how we can improve the adoption industry led by adoptees who have both experienced the positive and negative side of adoption. In order for change, we must confront the ugly side of adoption so the proper improvements can be made.
No one allowed you to express how you felt about being adopted did they?
It created just a little too much discomfort. You were adopted on a Monday and thrown into childcare on a Tuesday, and expected to carry on as if there was no separation trauma from your birth mother. You were a baby…you won’t remember, right?
If you tried to express any discomfort, you were immediately shut down with the “we chose you and you should be grateful” speech. Then, as you got older, your experience was minimized by adoptees who had a positive experience. No matter how articulate you were about your experience, if you expressed any dissent, your voice was drowned out and you were sent on a guilt trip, leaving you…unheard.
Of course, you know it could have been worse—that’s what they all say, right? But deep down, you have a yearning to know where you came from, and most importantly, why she did what she did.
Let’s be honest: we live in a country with one of the most sophisticated social services systems (despite how overloaded it is), and yet she decided to relinquish you. You had to pay a high price for someone else’s decision, and to the adoption agency—because they needed adoptable babies to meet the demand for couples struggling to conceive. This was not your choice. Your cognitive memory may not remember the trauma of separation, but your body and soul do. It haunts you every day, and you’ve always wanted to say something. However, something has always held you back. So, you settle for being unheard…just to keep the peace.
You had a feeling of torn loyalties. You never wanted to make your adoptive family—who sacrificed time, money, and emotions—to feel as though they were second best, but curiosity would get the best of you. You simply wanted to know: Where did I come from? Why did she give me up? Why didn’t she love me enough to fight for me?
All of these questions are natural. Your desire for your birth mother, the one who you originally bonded with, was and still is natural! Unless one has been forced to deny and ignore a natural-born bond, one will never know the pain and psychological torment adoptees and orphans face on a daily basis. So to be sensitive to everyone’s needs, you learned how to silence that curiosity and cope with the gap that other children will never feel. You fulfill everyone else’s needs at the expense of and while mitigating your own very real emotions—because you felt obligated to do right by them for a choice that was never yours to begin with.
Your entire life is still defined by one word: unheard.
As you got older, you were able to get that information you desperately craved as a younger child, or maybe you were even able to meet your birth mother. It is never easy for anyone when an unresolved past comes back to haunt us. However, you took that brave step to tread those waters. Some of you were supported, others not so much. Some of you made peace, and some of you continue to search for answers. Some of you were heard, and many others were unheard.
The separation trauma was so powerful that many negative messages were internalized.
In order to avoid future abandonment, you do all of this self-improvement work because your relinquishment by your birth mother was internalized as your failure. Up until you read this letter to the unheard, your entire life has revolved around correcting a situation that was not your responsibility to correct.
Your job, from the very beginning of your life, was to consider how your birth mother suffered and how it was such a struggle for your adoptive family to conceive and even adopt you! Silently carrying the burden has always been your life. Why should you do any different, now? Your partners get frustrated with you and walk out on you, or you walk out because you are tired of being frustrated with yourself. It’s just easier to be alone and unheard.
You’re now at a crossroads in your life. Yes, we are all too painfully aware that if our own flesh and blood is willing to give us up, then it must take very little for someone outside of our family to walk away. Your coping behaviors are understandable, and no one on the outside has a right to judge you. Your world has not been a safe place.
You have figured out the world will not hear you. So, you have a choice: do you continue to be left unheard, or do you start listening to yourself?
When you begin listening to yourself, your life begins!
You begin to drown out the naysayers, and you begin living life on your terms and no one else’s. You are not an object to be tossed out. You are not property to be controlled simply because you were conceived in an alternative way. You owe adoption nothing. Even though adoption chose for you, you get to choose for yourself, now. That is where your empowerment is: you! You are the hope, the strength, the love, and the choice. You are not required to do great things as a “thank you” for your adoption. You are not required to live your life on your adoptive family’s terms. Anyone who expects you to thank them, or to pay for their choice, is not doing it out of love. That was a self-serving decision.
You are whole, and the pen is in your hand to be author and creator of your life.
This will feel selfish at first—almost like you’re betraying everything and everyone. (Who, by the way, came into your life and projected unrealistic hopes and expectations on you.) However, you will get used to it, and so will they. Your life will change profoundly, little by little. First, you will begin to feel safe in your own body. Then, you will make healthier decisions. Those decisions will lead to even bigger decisions. Next thing you know, you will have taken control of your life. You will no longer feel as if you are living life at someone else’s mercy; freedom will guide you.
You are allowed to live your life the way you see fit.
Go find the great partner. Remember: content creators who are skilled at repeating “profound” quotes do not define your path—you do.
Create your own family on your own terms. Make your own friends on your own terms. The proud will walk away, but the faithful will remain; and there are faithful people out there. God knows I have been blessed with a reliable circle. These people met me at my absolute worst and they gave me something beyond unconditional acceptance and love. They became my family…my real family. They heard me before I could even hear myself. They have held me accountable and have loved me fiercely. They taught me how to love myself.
The greatest thing you can do as an adoptee is make your life the best one—the only way you know how! Consider this the day you pardon yourself from a life sentence of being unheard.