What Adoptees Talk About


We were warned coming in this was going to be a bitch session.

One at a time, we drag a chair into the circle. Among our own, everything we had kept pent up for weeks, months, years, or a lifetime, soon came pouring out.

“If one more person says, ‘Please respect my decision,’ when they really mean, ‘Fuck off,’ I’m going to lose my mind.”

“‘Get over it’? Can you imagine saying that to an orphan? ‘So your parents died when you were a baby. That was a long time ago. You should be over it by now. Can’t you just be happy with your new parents?” ~ “‘Can’t you just be happy all the time?’ is what they really mean. Adoptees as people instead of rescued babies make the non-adopted uncomfortable.”

“People who should know better say, ‘I wish I was adopted,’ not realizing they are buying into the whole adoption fantasy.” ~ “And shutting us down while they’re at it.” ~ “When I hear that, I know they’ve stopped listening.”

“We’re either miracles or ‘almost abortions’, never just people like they are. And they wonder why that bothers us.”

“When I was searching for my birth parents, people would ask me, ‘What do your adoptive parents say about this?’ As if I needed their permission! I didn’t need it to choose a career or have kids, but this was different, because adoptees who search are ungrateful children.”

“Who else has needed to block siblings online?” <hands raise immediately> “We were ‘chosen’ but when my parents had a biological child, my brother and I became invisible.” ~ “For me it was my adopted sister. She completely flipped out on me because I wasn’t willing to pretend our adopted family was my only family.” ~ “Yet, whenever there’s a problem, we’re expected to be the one who understands, who cares, and puts up with whatever shit is being thrown at us.” ~ “My half-sisters blocked me so I can’t even reach out to them if I wanted to. I’ve never even said so much as hello to two of them. But I’m the bitch? They don’t even know me.”

“I was an Irish kid with health problems who looked nothing like my parents, and they were old enough to be my grandparents. I was supposed to save their marriage.” ~ “I grew up as an Italian in a family of Scandinavians. I was supposed to be just like them. It’s like they were offended that I wasn’t the little Swedish girl they were told they were getting.” ~ “I’m still sometimes startled by my own reflection, after spending time with my adopted cousins. They have no idea how comforting it is to look around and see a resemblance in other faces. I never had that. I still don’t.”

“Have you noticed that we’re told our adoptive parents are our REAL parents, but when it comes down to it, we aren’t their real children? If they have any bio kids, they’re golden. We’re just the strays they took in. And we’d better be grateful for it.” ~ “Grateful for everything. Especially for not being aborted. Because, you know, all birth mothers were *this close* to making that decision.” (heavy sarcasm implied) “They can’t even grasp how rude it is to assume that. And they really think we’ve never thought of it, or heard it before. But when you point out that they could have been aborted too, they’re shocked and offended. Apparently, only women who gave up children ever considered it, so all adoptees were potential statistics.”

“When I was on vacation, I was staying just 45 minutes from my birth mother’s place for three days. I called her and asked if we could get together. We had only met in person once. She said she was too tired and busy. But she also won’t come to visit me. I’m her only biological child.” ~ “I met my mother only once and I had to show up on the doorstep. She refuses to have any sort of relationship with me.” ~ “I’m good with my birth mother’s family, but still the one we don’t talk about on my father’s side. I never met him, and when he died, they didn’t even tell me.”~ “Why is it we can only seem to have a good relationship with just one side or the other? It’s like we want too much just to be treated like human beings. No one would say, ‘Well, you get along with your in-laws, so you shouldn’t be greedy and expect that from your own parents too.’

“And the religious aspect, that ‘We’re all adopted by God’. Just another way of shutting us down. A little pat on the head, claim we’re all the same in the eyes of God, and that’s that.” ~ “Or our birth mothers needed to give us up to be forgiven, and our adoptive parents are saints. Try to ruin that delusion with reality and people get testy.”

“The one time I saw my mother, she took my face in her hands and kissed me on the forehead. I had to fly halfway across the country and show up at her door to get that. Besides my father’s name, that’s all I’ll ever get from her.” ~ “My mother did that, too. When we first met, she took my face in her hands and looked into my eyes, like a woman would right after giving birth.” ~ “Same here. I don’t think they got to do that when we were born.”

“I’ve wished I was never adopted, and I’ve also wished I was my adopted parents’ biological child.” ~ “It’s too complicated for most people to even think about. They need it to be magic and rainbows.” ~ “I’ve been told I’m the one who keeps pushing adoption in everyone’s face, but I’ve never been allowed to talk about it. They think I blame them, when all I want is an honest conversation.” ~ “And then they explain it to you, right? Like they’re some sort of adoption expert, because their next-door neighbor’s cousin was adopted, and *she’s just fine with it,*” <we all say in unison>

“I’ve been asked, ‘What do you talk about?’ like they can’t even imagine there would be any issues.” ~ “My wife is getting tired of me coming to support meetings, even though it’s been only a few months.”~ “Sometimes it’s jealousy. ‘Those people are strangers to you!’ because when we are trying to connect with lost family members, they aren’t the center of attention. They really think it’s a competition.” ~ “Even my husband who went through the whole search with me doesn’t get it. It’s like he thought this was a ‘thing’ I needed to do, and then everything would go back to the way it was.”

Later that evening, this happened:

“How was your meeting?”
“What do you talk about, anyway?”
(I am now hating his ability to psychically tap into my consciousness.)
“Whatever is on our mind, about adoption.”
“But you talk about adoption all the time.”
“Sometimes I need to talk with other adoptees. It’s therapeutic.”
“Why? It’s not like adoption is traumatic.”
(It’s about to be.)
“That’s exactly why I talk with other adoptees, because non-adopted people don’t get it.”
“I wish I had been adopt–”
“Don’t. Don’t say that. I’ve asked you before.”
“Why not?”
“Because it trivializes my life.”
“Oh, come on.”
“I’m serious. Just stop.”
“Okay, let me ask you this: What would have happened if you hadn’t been adopted?”
(He envisions me languishing in an orphanage.)
“I would have been raised by my mother.”
(There is a pause as he tries to make this work in his favor, so I add–)
“And she was perfectly capable.”
“And so were your adoptive parents!” he says, triumphantly.
“That wasn’t the question.”
“Well, obviously I can’t say anything right about this.”
“That’s why I need the meetings.”

One final quote from one of my adoptee besties:
“My mom asked me, ‘Why do you still go to those meetings?’ I leaned in and said, ‘I’m. Still. Adopted.’

All quotes paraphrased from memory.

Elle Cuardaigh is author of The Tangled Red Thread and contributor of The Adoptee Survival Guide and yes, she still needs to go to “those meetings.” 

12 thoughts on “What Adoptees Talk About

  1. Thank you, Elle. This is our life. The conversation with the husband- just had the EXACT same one with mine. I know he really wants to fix everything, he just can’t.

    As always, I appreciate everything you write. Much love to you.

  2. My now-ex husband told me that he couldn’t support me in my search to find my birth family. And of all people, this is someone who had to relinquish a child, to make a statement like that is just so ridiculous. Complete denial. I also remember going to the OBGYN for my first appointment when I was pregnant with my first child, and got the religious “you are so lucky that you weren’t aborted” comment when I told her that I had no medical history because I was adopted.

  3. Reblogged this on elle cuardaigh and commented:

    And then, the day after posting this, I met for coffee with one of my greatest allies in my latent search process (Marjorie, from the book). As I told her my latest struggles, which she sympathizes with, she said, “I wish *I* was adopted, because that would have meant I was wanted and chosen.” Taking a deep breath, I said as gently as possible, “That’s…really a myth. I was wanted, but I wasn’t chosen.” Reblogging today for a last-minute Flip The Script.

  4. This is a completely accurate portrait of any day in the life of an adoptee. I completely agree about the chosen part as well. My aparents did not choose me, I was simply the next available baby in line. Hence, I usually comment as NextInLine. And, although I have experience second rejection, my bmother and her family would have been perfectly capable of raising me.

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