Growing up, the story of my adoption was always told in such a happy way. I was born to young parents who were unable to provide for me. They loved me so much that they made the ultimate sacrifice to allow another set of parents — a couple who desperately wanted a child — to raise me. That couple was blessed beyond measure the day they brought me home. I was the best gift they could have ever hoped to receive.
But this is not my story. Because I am not in it.
I am not a gift. I am a human being with her own story. I am a complicated web of beliefs, commitments, love, anger, trauma, loss, hope, and resiliency. It has taken me nearly 40 years to reclaim my narrative and put myself front and centre in the story of my own life. And the theme that permeates the entirety of my existence: loneliness. I’ve fought against that idea for so long.
Listen: When Andrew Met Anne: A Son's Story of adoption. Post continues below.
It sounds so dismal to say I’m lonely and that’s just who I am. But the truth is that once I learned to accept this fundamental part of my identity, I finally began to feel whole. Once I stopped trying to fix me and allowed my story as an adoptee to be what it is — equal parts beautiful and tragic — I found meaning. It’s not so much about healing myself, but about understanding my complexity, and loving that person, not just despite it, but because of it.
Trash or Treasure?
It’s a weird thing, growing up being told that you were an answered prayer. That you were chosen. That unlike so many other babies out there, you were wanted, immeasurably.
It’s weird to hear all those things while another voice — one that is not allowed to speak, so she whispers from the darkest corners of your mind — reminds you that you were inherently unwanted. You were abandoned. The people who should have held you closest and wanted you the most gave you away to strangers.
That’s what adoptive parents are to a newborn baby who has been prematurely separated from her mother. They are aliens.
My parents eventually became familiar to me, of course, but they will forever be genetic strangers. I did not spend my very important first years of life looking at faces that were biologically connected to me. In fact, the first time I ever got to stare into a face that was biologically related to me was when my first child was born.
Imagine not seeing yourself reflected back in another until your 35th year.
Unlike many adoptees, who, by sheer bad luck, end up in terrible homes, I had an amazing upbringing. I was granted every conceivable opportunity, expensive summer camps, ballet classes, and a swimming pool in our backyard.
My parents spent time with me, we played together, and I looked up to them. I still do. My dad instilled in me a love for geography, and my mum taught me the value of punctuality. They loved me as best as any parents could.
But love cannot heal all wounds. All the love in the world cannot repair the severed bonds between me and my biological family.
The complex reality of adoption is that it is a staggering loss — for the relinquishing family and for the adoptee.