What every adoptee/ relinquishee wants you to know is that we are not all the same. We have all, however, gone through trauma, whether we show it, address it, or even acknowledge it. Every adoption is unique just as every person and every family is. Some adoptions go smoothly, others might have incredible difficulty—even if everything seems to be in place and all the precautions have been taken. I know families who have had really successful adoptions and ones where the process was difficult and traumatizing for all parties, with some who have recovered and some who are still trying to recover.
Becoming a part of a family is our first introduction to being human in this world. We meet our first caretakers, we develop our first likes and dislikes, we allow people around us shape us. Yes, we all come with certain genetic dispositions, but those are expressed through how we nurture them. I think one of the biggest mistakes adoptive families can make is to assume that what happens with the adoption will follow a typical path and that it’s possible to fully prepare. To my knowledge the families who remain teachable and flexible are the ones who are best equipped, and most realistic. Families that assume that they know everything are the ones who might encounter some really unpleasant surprises.
What every adoptee wants you to know is that there are many layers to assimilation and there is much to learn and acknowledge by all parties, including society.
For me, adoption was a mostly positive event because the family that adopted me was open about who I was and where I came from. I never felt the need to hide my adoptive status and, in fact, I would share that information with friends. But when I was quite young, I learned that what I thought was normal and quite interesting was shocking to my peers. I learned to be ashamed of who I was and I learned to hide. My happy adoption and my family life were no longer looking so idyllic, and I questioned everything because I felt betrayed. I wish I had at that time the resources and the supports to be able to work through my issues, but neither I, nor my family, knew that there was anything wrong.
I withdrew and learned some maladaptive coping skills (my alcohol addiction), but my family didn’t notice. And I wouldn’t even know how to make them notice. I believed that as an adopted child my job was to be grateful and quiet. So, I stayed grateful and quiet until it almost killed me.
This is why I believe that for many families, adoption needs to be a process where people do frequent check-ins with each other, and especially with the relinquishees/ adoptees. What every adopted person wants you to know is that underneath a happy façade, there might be a person that’s hiding more complicated (yet also more authentic) feelings, wittingly or unwittingly.