Tag Archives: abandonment

Filling My Backpack - Empty backpack on grey background

Filling My Backpack

Filling My Backpack - Empty backpack on grey backgroundMore than once in my life I have been asked if I ever wanted to find my biological parents, and if so, why? People have said “You have a family, aren’t they enough? Why do you need to find these other people? Just be happy that you had a good life.” And I get where people are coming from. From the outside, looking in I can see how it may appear that I was searching for some sort of replacement. It may look like I didn’t think my family was  enough. Honestly, that’s not the case AT ALL (and I don’t speak for all adoptees, but I don’t think that’s the case for almost all of us) My family has always, and will always be enough. These are the people who raised me, cared for me, gave me everything I ever wanted, supported me through every dream, and every heartache I ever had. They are my family and always will be. I love them unconditionally.

Now here’s the “but” This is something hard to describe to anyone who is not adopted, but … There has always been a missing piece. A part of my history – my identity -that I had no access to. Vital information that nobody could provide. It’s not a “hole” exactly. I, as a person, wasn’t empty. I had everything I needed to fill up my soul.  But…I guess, you could look at it like a backpack. Everyone has this backpack, and inside it are files, and photos, and information. My backpack was pretty much empty.

For example, in school when  they’d talk about heritage and family trees, everyone would open up their “backpack” and pull out the files about where their family came from, what nationality they were. I could guess that I was Irish because of my fair skin, but that never felt right because I didn’t really know. I could use my family’s history and say I was Italian and Norwegian because my dad is, or German, French, English, and Irish because my mom is, but that didn’t feel right either because I wasn’t those things. Their DNA wasn’t my DNA, and I felt like a fraud claiming their heritage. Everyone else in class just knew. Everyone else in class had a backpack full of information.

Mine was empty.

Every doctor’s appointment I ever went to they’d ask me to give a family history. But I’d open my backpack and there’d be nothing to tell them. “I’m adopted…so…I don’t know…” Everyone else has those files in their backpack, they can pull them right up and say “Yes, my mom had cancer, my dad had heart disease, my grandmother had a thyroid condition, my uncle had a genetic condition.” I had “Biological mother allergic to strawberries and tomatoes.” That never got me very far. Doctors tend to roll their eyes at patients with empty backpacks. Doctors like to have a place to start when diagnosing medical conditions.

All I could give them was an empty backpack, and my apologies for making their jobs harder.

My backpack didn’t have the photos showing who I looked like, where I got my blue eyes or my dimples, or strawberry-blonde hair. My backpack had no photos, while everyone else had full albums.

And everyone else was always adding to their backpacks, while mine stayed empty.

What my backpack DID have were little scraps of paper with words like “unwanted” and “unlovable,” “given up” and “abandoned” Little reminders of that first trauma that would fall out every time I opened that backpack

My empty backpack has affected every relationship I have ever had. Friends, family, boyfriends, coworkers, every single relationship. Even my own child. Avery was my first blood relative. The first person I could look at and see myself looking back.  Having Avery was profoundly healing in ways I never imagined, but it also picked at that primal wound. Having a child added some items to my backpack, but it also reminded me of the things that were missing.

In searching for my biological family, I have just wanted to fill my backpack, to have access to the same information that everyone else has access to.

But in finding them, I have gotten so much more. While those little scraps of paper are still there, and will likely always be there, they are smaller, and don’t fall out quite as often. Because now, when I open my backpack, they aren’t the only things inside. Now those scraps are at the bottom of my backpack, under the photos, and the medical history folder, and the family tree.

My search was never about replacing anyone. It was never about finding something NEW or BETTER. It was always about finding MORE. It was always a search for MORE information. But, through this search I have found even more than that. I have found MORE people who love me. MORE people who want me.

And MORE of my story to fill my backpack.

Questions About Adoption

I am often asked questions about adoption by people who are pursuing or considering adoption as a way to grow their family. The questions are usually the same over and over, and the the answers sometimes come as a surprise to the parents.  I thought I’d take a moment to answer the most common questions here, in case others are out there, searching the web looking for answers.

 

adoption poem not flesh of my flesh
“Should we do an open or closed adoption?”

-This is a decision that you need to think long an hard about. I can see pros and cons in both.  My adoption, like all through New York State Child and Family Services, was completely closed. For me, that was always fine and I never wished it had been any other way. That said, as an adult, I do wish that it were easier to access my family history and to contact my biological family.

I recommend talking to families in both situations. You need to be certain of what you are comfortable with. If you choose an open adoption, you will need to come to an agreement with the birth parents about what is/is not appropriate. Will they speak to your child only on the phone, or will you invite them to Birthday parties or over for dinner?  How much access are you willing to give them.  Also know that this may change as your child gets older. They may want more or less contact with their birth parents.

 

“Should we adopt a baby or an older child?”

-This is another personal decision.  There are so many different issues that come from each type of adoption.  You may have to wait a very long time for an infant (especially if you are pursuing a domestic adoption through social services) With an infant you start with a “clean slate” so to speak.  They are yours from “day one” (I was 6 weeks old)  An older child may have more emotional issues (I say MAY because not all do, I have to be very clear on this. EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT) but unfortunately, the system can be harsh and have a serious impact on the children who are in it. That said,  there are hundreds of thousands of older children in the US who need families and adopting an older child can be an incredible blessing for your family.  Either way you are giving a very deserving child a loving home, so there is no wrong or right here.

 

“How much does it cost?”

-That depends.  Most state agencies do not charge anything.  My adoption, through Child and Family Services, for example, was *Free* however there are attorney’s fees and court costs involved.  If you adopt through a private agency, or internationally there will most likely be fees, however those vary by agency.

 

“Should we adopt Domestically or Internationally?”

-This is a very personal decision.  There can be pros and cons for both, but you need to decide what will be best for your family.  There are different costs involved with each, as mentioned above. With International adoption you must factor in the travel (sometimes multiple trips) as well as fees for Visas/Passports and agency fees. If adopting privately in the US you may have to pay for health care for the biological mother, or other living expenses. However, as was the case with me, you may pay nothing but attorney and court fees.

Then there are the wait times.  Internationally this can vary by country. In the US it may vary by agency. You may have to wait for a biological mother to “choose” you, or you may just have to wait for a child to become available. It can take years (in either case) or it could take days (as was the case in my adoption.)

Another consideration is medical history. With domestic adoption there tends to be more access to those histories.

There are also legal issues unique to each type of adoption, I am not knowledgeable enough about the legal system to truly address these issues, but if you are considering adoption, you should absolutely seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in International or Domestic adoption.

I am a proponent of Domestic adoption, because of my personal experience, and knowing how many children we have in the foster care system in the US (In the U.S. 400,540 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system.  115,000 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 40% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted. Source: AFCARS Report, No. 19)  However, I also fully respect and support a family’s decision to pursue International adoption. There is no “right” answer to this question, it is all about what you feel in your heart.

 

“Will our child have abandonment issues?”

-The short answer? (and my strong personal opinion)  Yes.  Yes they will.  I have spoken to parents of adopted children who have told me “oh no, not my child he/she is very well adjusted and doesn’t have any feelings of abandonment”  I usually just say “oh that’s great!”  The truth is either they aren’t telling their parents, or they haven’t realized it yet.  Those feelings can come up at any time, and they will.  I hate saying it, but, I can almost completely guarantee it. If you are not adopted you can’t understand it (Most parents of adopted children do not understand it either) These feelings are incredibly deep rooted, and can manifest in different ways for each child (or adult)

I am a “very well adjusted” woman. My parents always showed me pure, unconditional love, however there has always been that “something” a feeling of loss, a feeling of losing again. For me it manifested itself in my relationships both with close friends and with boyfriends. I pushed people to their limits to see if they would abandon me. If they did I’d think “I knew it, I knew they wouldn’t stick around” and if they didn’t, I’d push harder until they did. It wasn’t until I was in my mid 20s that I realized what I was doing, and was able to work through it.

 

“Should we tell our child he/she is adopted?”

-100% absolutely, yes. Adoption isn’t something you should lie about or hide or cover up. It will only end up hurting your child in the end. The truth will come out, it always does. And you risk losing the trust of your child completely.

 

“What should we tell our child about their biological parents?”

-Again this decision is personal. Odds are pretty good that your child will ask.  I believe in being honest and telling them what you know (if you know anything)

 

“Will they try and find their biological parents?”

-They may, they may not. I know many adoptees who have no desire to search for their birth parents.   I also know many who have searched, and found their birth parents.

It is also important to let your child (I say child, but I know most adoptees who start the search are older)  know that it is ‘ok’ if they want to pursue a search. Many children (and adults) may avoid a search for fear of hurting their parents. Let your children know that you understand that this is important to them, and that you know they aren’t looking to replace you.

Also, give them your support. A search can be extremely emotional. They may find that their biological parents have died, or that they do not want to meet them. They will need your support.

 

“Will our child feel like they are different from the rest of our family?”

-This is a difficult, but important question. They may. It will depend on many factors.  Your child may be of a different race, and they will be aware of that. It is your job to teach them the beauty in their differences.  Even if your child is of the same race, they will have differences. For me, I was the pale little Irish girl who got a sunburn by looking at a picture of the sun. My Father is of Italian and Norwegian decent and my mother is a mix of French, German, Native American, English and more. Both of them have dark hair, both of them get incredibly tan in the summer (especially my mom!) It was clear that I was “different” that said, my family never made me feel like an outsider.  I was never “the adopted one” I took pride in being adopted, but I also took pride in being a part of my family. I will say, I do look like my cousins on my mother’s side, and everyone always commented on how much I looked like my nana (I have her nose haha)

It is your role as a parent to ensure that your child knows they are 100% part of the family. That they are 100% loved and that they are beautiful and perfect just the way they are.

 

“Is it biological mother? Birth mother? Natural mother? Which is it?”

-Go with whatever works for you.  I prefer biological mother, but will sometimes use birth mother.  I personally dislike “Natural Mother” because to me, it implies that there is something unnatural about adoption, and while I understand that giving birth is the natural way to motherhood the term just doesn’t sit well with me.

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I hope this answers a few of the questions you may be asking.  If you are a parent considering adoption and have other questions or would like to discuss anything further, please contact me.  I would love to talk with you!

 

Here are a few books that I have read and think all adoptive parents should read:

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed..Discover the Unique Need of Your Adopted Child and Become the Best Parent You Can by Sherrie Eldridge

Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self by David M. Brodzinsky, Marshall D. Schecter, Robin Marantz Henig

 

 

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