I’m an adopted individual. Like many adoptees, parts of my history are a fill in the blank. I reunited with my first family ten years ago. Despite what many assume, reunion does not always mean that all your questions about your early beginnings get answered. There are still many missing pieces that leave me to wonder. And there are many different reasons why pieces remain missing. Perhaps, the language barrier. And, out of respect for my first family, I don’t ask a lot of questions, as I sense that it’s distressing. I did gain answers to some of my questions. There are still voids. I will never have the opportunity to meet my first parents, as by the time I reunited with my first family, my parents had passed on. I will never know why my adoptive parents told me mistruths about my birth heritage (I learned they were mistruths), as they too have passed on. The wonders feel like a big, dark hole in my heart. I don’t sense into it often; however, I know it’s there, deep down inside. I know it can be triggered unexpectedly in moments when I feel flooded with deep loss and/or threat. So, here are seven wonders that I have around my adoption. Perhaps some of them resonate with you.
- Did my birth mother ever think about me? I learned from my biological sisters that our father relinquished me to an orphanage secretly. I was adopted at the age of four months from the orphanage. My sisters shared that they remembered visiting me at the babysitter’s after school, holding me and such. Then one day, I wasn’t there anymore. I wonder if my first mother mourned. Did she try to find me? How did my relinquishment impact the family once I was gone? Did she love me? As I write this, I feel that big, dark hole in my heart opening up just a little.
- Did I attach to my birth mother? Did she hold me, feed me, make eye contact ? Did she take care of me? Knowing what I know now about attachment, I recognize that I didn’t get a whole lot of it during my early years. I can’t recall a single time my adoptive parents ever played with me. There are pictures of them holding me, smiling for the camera, but were there moments of connection? Moments of bonding? I grew up scared most of my childhood and adolescence, so I wonder.
- What were my first parents like? What was my birth mother’s personality like? I learned from my bio sisters that she was a teacher and loved classical music. Was she kind? Was she loving? Are we similar in any other ways? My sisters told me that I look like our mother when she was younger, although there are no pictures left of her as a young woman. In my memoir, I tell of a time when I “saw” my first and adoptive mothers. It was during a Guided Imagery & Music (GIM-Bonny Method) training I took with some music therapy classmates years ago. It was quite emotional. I remember it like it happened yesterday. During my “traveling” experience, my birth mother told me she gave me the gift of music, and the whole experience was like my adoptive mother telling me, “I want you to know this now.” My adoptive mom purposely hid so much of my adoption history. I often wonder what my first parents were like.
- Why was I relinquished? On my adoption contract, which stayed hidden in my parents’ attic till after my adoptive mother’s death, it states that “the family was impoverished.” I assume that to be true according to what my bio sister’s shared. I believe that there was stress, tension, anxiety in the home of my first family. But what was the breaking point? What may have happened that led up to my going away? I wonder.
- Did my birth father ever regret relinquishing me, or mourn my absence? I surmise that we never bonded. He must have felt a lot of something to take me away. Was it anger, was it pressure? Did I cry a lot? Was I just another mouth to feed? Was there something wrong with me? I hear that a lot from other adoptees, perhaps not even always spoken. A deep sense of unworthiness and shame is often at the core of some of the patterns we develop later in life.
- What do my extended birth family members think about me now that we have met? I reunited with my extended first family on the Eve of the Lunar New Year, 2012. I met my Uncle, the patriarch of the family, a niece and nephew, and my sisters’ husbands, as well as close family friends. My two biological sisters and biological brother were also there. I spent daily time with my sisters during my entire visit, and I remember not wanting them to think that I was spoiled in any way, or had an easier life. I maintain contact with my sisters and my niece and nephew via social media. My niece is now married, and she and her husband have a little girl. I’m also connected to my brother on social media. I experienced nothing but kindness and generosity from my family. It was so special to meet them all. I often felt like I was floating. It was one of the happiest times in my life, and of course, life changing. I felt accepted, but I wonder if they too wonder about what happened.
- Will I ever feel like I fit in? This is the greatest challenge I’ve experienced as a result of being adopted. I’m Asian and grew up in a predominantly white community. Yes, racial teasing. Yes, racism, prejudice, microaggressions, still. Yes, tried so hard to “fit in.” Yes, rejected my cultural roots well into adulthood. Yes, it hurt. In everything I did and do today, the feeling of not fitting in is pervasive. Through therapy, I have learned skills to recognize, befriend (this is a work in progress), and cope with this deeply rooted pathway (in my brain and body). Some days, it’s overwhelming and really hard. Most people in my circle, including family and friends, don’t get it. It’s hard for them to understand or empathize. So I cope alone. Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, polyvagal theory, bottom-up regulation, and such help. But I wonder, had I been offered safe connection during my early years and adolescence, would I be different? Would I struggle less with this deep shame, people pleasing, codependency? I think, yes.
So, I wonder as I wander. I live each day in hopes that I’ll grow past my wonders. But, I think my wonders will always remain wonders. I have this hope. That perhaps I can offer support to other adoptees who have similar wonders.