Loch Lomond, Scotland. Ancestral home to one side of my birth father’s family.
I’ve realized that people who aren’t adopted will never understand the experience of being an adopted person. And for that reason, this is my last post about the topic of adoption.
There are some things a person simply cannot understand unless they have lived it. I, as a white woman, will never truly understand what it means to be a woman of color in the United States. I can study the issue, listen to stories and experiences, but I can never feel it in my core and in my bones because I’ve never lived it.
It is the same with adoptees and non-adoptees. If you grew up amongst your family of origin, you took certain things for granted. Your mother was Irish, so you were Irish. Your father had black hair, so that’s where your black hair came from. You have eczema or gastritis or acne or bunions–and so did your grandmother. You know where it came from. It makes sense. The pieces fit together.
Adoptees don’t have that. The pieces don’t fit. Nothing can be taken for granted–not the hair on your head or the bunions on your toes. It all comes from an elusive “somewhere;” a nebulous, mysterious place where the family of origin lurks, in the shadows. Sometimes, reunions happen and mysteries are solved–I know that one quarter of me comes from the region of Loch Lomond, Scotland, for example, and I cling to that like a drowning person clings to a life raft. But the full puzzle is never made complete. It can never be made complete because the adopted person was erased from the family of origin.
No matter what, you are still a person of two worlds. You are still betwixt and between. You are still a person who was lost and then found.
It is a mythological archetype, the lost child found and raised into greatness. Orphans-turned-heroes abound in popular fiction: Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Jon Snow, Rey, Frodo Baggins. But the reality of the lost child found is much different. After his parents’ death, Harry Potter was rescued from a life under the stairs and became a famous wizard. Luke Skywalker was plucked from his uncle’s farm and became a great Jedi Knight, only to find out later the not-so-great truth about his birth parents. We, the relinquished ones, were “rescued,” too, but we retain our wounds. We do not become great heroes. The only heroic thing we do is make a path for ourselves in the world, holding close the little baby we once were and doing our best to make peace with our shadowy origins.
But that peace does not come easily to everyone. Some adoptees find it, yes. But others do not. And, I have decided, non-adoptees cannot fully understand us in our struggle. Because they are not us. They do not have the knowledge that they were relinquished at birth. If you are a non-adoptee reading this, imagine, for just a moment, how you would feel if your parents had decided at your birth to relinquish you to strangers. Think of that. Think of how that would have shaped your view of yourself and of the world.
And I am not blaming the birth parents here. I am blaming the system. I am blaming the system that for decades shamed women and men who had children in a non-traditional way and forced them, for society’s sake, to give those children away for whatever reason. Society became more important than the family.
And so, I have, in these three posts, spoken my truth. And that is all it is–my truth. No more and no less. I have caused consternation in some circles with my posts, but that was not my intention. I can only write what I have lived.
I am a strong believer in the importance of dialogue, especially in the times we are living in now. I have always felt that discussion and discourse can solve any problem, can settle any misunderstanding. But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps there is no way to fully communicate the experience of the adoptee to a non-adopted person. I’m a pretty good writer, and I’ve done my best. But I guess that wasn’t good enough.
So, take my posts for what they are–my experiences. If they leave you angry or confused, move on. You are likely not an adoptee, or, if you are an adoptee, you have had a very different experience than me. Consider yourself lucky.
My truth is all I have. It is all I can give. Take away what feels right, and leave the rest.