In lieu of National Adoption Month, I thought I’d share my thoughts on adoption.
A few days ago, one of my professors who knows I was adopted and that the adoption didn’t work asked me, “If the opportunity arose, what would you say about being adopted again?” At first I was confused and a little irritated, I didn’t know how to respond as half the class was staring at me. Instead of giving a yes or no, I answered, “It’s something that I’d have to think longer on. It’s not a yes or no answer.” She was pleased and moved on, but the question kept ringing in my ears. How would I answer?
I haven’t gone into great detail about all the failed adoptions as I feel they are still a little to personal, but from each adoption a little piece of my heart was changed. The first family that was going to adopt me got tired of fighting my grandparents and when they decided to move, they decided to give up. The second adoption failed because I was having doubts and was still too attached to my roots, something my adoptive mom couldn’t stand. My third failed because it was the mother of my second and things were just uncomfortable. I became the “trouble” child. The last, my legally adoptive parents, failed because of the rejection, fear and the lack of trust.
In each of these adoptions I held the biggest reason for the disruption: the inability to let go of the past and become someone new. I was in so much pain and turmoil that I didn’t know how to move past it all. I needed that extra help. I needed to regress back to major growing points in my life that were missed. Unfortunately, my adoptive families didn’t know or understand this. The families who did understand this refused to do this because chronologically it wasn’t right. I was 17.5 not 2 or 4 or 8. They didn’t have the ability to accept me enough to let me feel safe. I didn’t have the ability to trust them enough to let them in. It was hard. With each family I walked away feeling a little more beaten, a little more bruised. But I didn’t give up.
After each family kicked me out or left, I decided that I still wanted a family. I kept telling myself that there are millions of families out there in this world, one of them had to be mine; I had to belong to someone. As much as I knew S@nta wasn’t real, I wished every year to have a family “come for me” for Christmas. I hoped that some how I’d magically have a family on Christmas morning. I remember being so happy after my 2nd adoptive family asked if they could adopt me, we went on a walk and I told them that I had wished for this for years. Every time an adoption failed, I prayed even harder to a God that never answered..to a God that I didn’t even believe in but that so many people kept saying made life so much more bare able.
So, how would I respond to someone if they asked if I wanted to be adopted into their family? or adopted in general? I think, right now, I would apologize to them for giving them the idea that I wanted to be adopted and then I would respectfully decline. It’s not that I don’t want to be adopted; believe me, I do. I want a mom and a dad and siblings more than anything. But the truth is, adoption isn’t for me. It isn’t part of my plan.
After 4 failed adoptions I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t the only problem, but I was a problem. Because I grew up with my mom it is really hard for me to let her go. For 3/4 of my life, she was the one who I woke up to…despite the horrible abuse and environment. She is the one I called mom every single day. She is the one I took care of when she was sick or coming down. She was the one whose wounds I mended after her boyfriend beat her black and blue. For 8 years I have been so terrified to let go of my mom, to let go of my past and my hurt, that I failed to let anyone else in.
I felt like I was being brave by moving on from each loss so quickly. I felt like I was conquering the world with each step I took forward when I was thrown back. But what I didn’t realize was that for so many years the hoping and wishing and praying for a family where I belonged didn’t mean having a mom, a dad, and siblings. It didn’t mean forgetting about my mom and shutting everyone else out. Instead, it meant going into a multitude of families and learning from each one something new. It meant putting myself through so much pain and turmoil that I could understand that there is more for me than belonging to someone legally. It meant learning that no matter what is thrown my way knowing my heart and mind and body could be strong enough to beat it.
I want a mom. I want a dad. I want a legal family. But a legal family is not my thing. A legal family, in my case because it is not an option to have my real mom a part of my life) gives the stipulation that there is one mom and one dad (after adoption) and that you can mourn your first family but that you cannot have your first family. Legal family means being held to an expectation that you are like them somehow. Legal family means calling someone mom and dad and brother/sister. It means learning to conform to new rules and a whole new life style. These are things I’ve done 3 too many times. These are things I cannot do without compromising the love I have for my mom, because in this moment, my heart doesn’t know how to love like that. I don’t quite understand how to love my mom and love another mom and dad too, yet.
I have a family where I am and even though it’s not perfect, I don’t fight so hard to keep them out. I’ve learned to slowly open my heart and to let them in to see the deep, deep hurt. This family believes in me like no other family has believed in me and each day, I’m learning to allow that. I’m learning to accept their help in whatever form they give it to me and it’s hard. Family is hard. Learning to communicate and react appropriately, to love and to love unconditionally is hard. Learning to respect each members physical, mental, and emotional needs is hard. I’m learning slowly to give my past to my family…to let them help me carry my baggage so that it’s not so heavy…and it’s hard. We struggle. Sometimes I get so angry at them I wish them away forever–and then I fear they will leave. Sometimes they become so confused and frustrated with me that they yell at me or take a break from me. We fight, more than I’d like to admit, but most of the time we are okay…because I don’t have to call them mom or dad, brother or sister. I don’t have to like sports or go to church. I am free to be who I need to be with the only expectation being that I am: respectful of others, honest, and doing my best. They have taught me what unconditional love is and that love never fails.
In this moment, I would say no to an offer of adoption…even if it was from any of the people in my “family”…because I know that once the idea that I have a MOM hits, the trouble will hit. I would say no because I have a family. I have people around me who love me and who believe in me. I am adopted–both legally and undocumented…