It’s National Adoption Awareness Month — the time when I and other adoptees work even harder then usual to dispel all the myths and misconceptions around what it’s like to be adopted.
For reasons I’ll never understand, non-adopted people seem to feel they have license to weigh in on the adoptee experience. In my 52 years, I’ve heard any number of ridiculous comments about how I should feel to have been adopted. “Grateful” ranks up there (that pronouncement is often chased with a solemn comment about how glad I must be to have not been aborted. I’ve started to respond to that one with, “I’ll bet you’re grateful you weren’t aborted, too.”).
But my all-time favorite is how “lucky” I am to have been adopted — the idea being I needed a leg up in the world.
Yes, how lucky I am to have been relinquished and raised without any biological relatives, always wondering why I was given away (and whether it’s because there’s something wrong with me). Lucky to have my original identity erased by the State of New York. So very lucky to not be allowed to know where I came from, who I look like, my medical history and anything else that might provide clues to my authentic self. (Unless I were to break all the rules and find out on my own as I did a few years ago.)
“Lucky” is precisely the word we should use to describe the experience, don’t you think?
Here are others, from some of the more than 100 adoptees I spoke to for the book I’m writing about the adoptee experience:
“It’s like having only one leg. You can’t walk with one leg. There’s something missing that doesn’t make you a whole person.”
“I remember lots of conversations revolving around what a selfless person my birth mother must have been. I put her on a pedestal growing up. But on the other hand, I felt pain from an early age about being given away. I always had an inner conflict. My birth mother was the most generous person in the world, but there was sadness over why I wasn’t kept.”
“In junior high, I started to question, ‘Who am I? Why was I not wanted?’ It was a hard emotional time for me.”
“I truly felt that adoption meant that I was unlovable.”
“I feel pain every day related to my adoption experience and it makes me sad. I have shame about my pain and I don’t like showing people that. It’s exhausting to paste on a smile. I don’t have any best friends. I have to force myself to go out.”
“Inside I didn’t feel special and chosen. And I didn’t like myself because I didn’t understand why I didn’t feel that way when my mind had been told all those years that I was. It caused me to self-degrade myself. Why couldn’t I get this together? Why couldn’t I feel what I’d been told?”
“I shut down and withdrew, especially around age 7 when I realized I had been abandoned. I thought there was something wrong with me. I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I kind of felt like an alien.”
“I spent days in my bedroom crying, trying to understand why I was rejected.”
So freakin’ lucky, don’t you think?