Adoption: A (now grown-up) Child’s Perspective
I was adopted when I was a baby. Before I could even understand what adoption meant, my mom used to say to me, “You aren’t the child of my flesh, you are the child of my heart,” and I knew it to be true. I grew up feeling loved, happy, and secure. All the same, it didn’t stop me from noticing that I don’t have the curly black hair of my mom, nor the blue eyes of my father. I thought, how am I like my birth parents, and how am I like my adoptive parents? I used to wonder if I was like those mysterious people in more ways than just looks. I guess I always will.
Adoption can add a layer of mystery and complexity to one’s self-identity, even if it’s a semi-open adoption, like the one I had. Isn’t it funny how we all try to be individuals, but also want to fit in? We may or may not realize it but we often base our identities on how similar or different we are from our biological relatives. “You look so much like your sister,” or, “You have the temper of your mother,” or similar statements are things biological children hear their whole lives. It’s not the same for adopted children. We crave acceptance and belonging, always searching for where we fit in. Even generalizations we make about entire populations or cultures don’t make sense to adopted children. We just check too many boxes. We’re Native American or Irish or German or Korean or a mixture of them all. We’re born into poverty or to families who abuse or neglect. And then we’re transported into our adoptive families and cultures, where our lives are (hopefully more secure) but also are just… totally different than our birthplace. What part of my personality fits into a stereotype? Which aspects come from my biological roots vs. my upbringing? Eventually, I gave up trying to fit into a box. I am who I am. What does it mean to be _______ (insert any biological attribute)? Exactly what I make it to mean. Me being me defines what being ________ is, not the other way around. Hopefully all adopted kids can find such peace with regards to their self-identity.
Self-identity is something we all wrestle with throughout our lives. Adoption made this aspect of my life more confusing, but it’s been way more beneficial for me than not. Birthday cards and periodic letters from my birth mother did little to help me understand my early beginnings or the larger story of her life, but it DID allow me the serenity that goes with knowing that all was at is should have been. My birth mother didn’t regret putting my sister and I up for adoption, and in fact she was happy that we were growing up well taken care of. This allowed me to accept and embrace the way things were, without worrying that there had been a giant mistake. A friend’s father once asked me if I ever regretted knowing that I was adopted and it struck me as odd. Maybe other kids who don’t know the circumstances surrounding their adoption or get reassurance like I did growing up feel mired in conflict, they may also feel abandoned, but EVEN THEN the truth is better than not knowing at all, or worse, finding out by accident or at a vulnerable time like puberty. Knowing my history my whole life allowed me the time to accept it, and eventually allowed me to feel thankful towards my birth mother for giving me to loving parents who could provide all that I could need. It all makes sense to me, and feeds my spirituality, because as my dad always said, “It was fate. You were always meant to be my daughter.”
An Adoptive Parent’s Perspective
Are you considering becoming an adoptive parent or are simply curious about it? Here are some questions answered by Jay and Janita Raham of Shelton, WA. They are parents to 14 children, a mix of biological, foster, and adopted kids. I worked alongside them a few years ago and had the pleasure of getting to know some of their kids as the Youth Coordinator in our community. At the time, Jay was our basketball coach! Seems like a perfect fit, because he coached a team at home as well! Here they are:
- Can someone love an adopted child as much as a biological one?
You can definitely love an adopted child just as much as you love a biological child. My husband and I do not have any biological children together. I feel like the Creator had a plan and this was it. I have them all for a reason and even though there are days that I think I can’t do it anymore and wonder what I was thinking raising 14 kids, I don’t regret it and I would never choose differently. Every child that has been in our home was there for a reason.
In our home we do not use any term other than ‘our child/children’, ‘sister’ and ‘brother’. We don’t have ‘step’, ‘foster’ or ‘adoptive’. All of our children are treated the same when it comes to what they receive and how they are disciplined.
As in any home you have some that are more spoiled or called the favorite by the other children and we are no exception. Our two youngest boys Kye, 8 and Chase, 6 are who our other children would tell you are our favorites and they might be a little correct 🙂 Our boys are both adopted/tribal guardianship and we brought them both home from the hospital as newborns. From the moment I got the call that Kye was born something came alive in me. When I saw him for the first time at the hospital I was in love, he was so perfect. I have always felt we were meant to be and eight years later that feeling has never changed.
A year and a half later we got the call about Chase. Both our boys were born addicted to drugs. Kye was able to come from the hospital at three days old and we went through his withdrawal with him. Due to Kye’s drug exposure he has always had a compromised immune system and dealt with many medical issues. He’s had two sets of tubes put in his ears, severe asthma, dental issues, and if there is a virus going around he gets it. Chase was born going through withdrawal, the moment he was born he was transported via ambulance to the PIC unit at the hospital where he went through 28 days of rehab. He was given morphine hourly to get him through the severe withdrawal. When we saw Chase for the first time our hearts where so sad for him, he had a fight ahead of him and we just knew we were going to be by his side the whole way. I took maternity leave from work and spent my days at the hospital with him until he was released at 28 days old.
My husband and I have a total of 14 kids and we would do anything for any of them and I believe they all know that.
- What characteristics make for a successful adoptive parent?
The characteristics that make a good adoptive parent are strength, flexibility, openness and forgiveness. Being an adoptive parent is not easy. There are days that I wonder if I’m doing any of it right. Was it fair to my biological children to take on additional children? Am I helping the children I have by being here for them? Could I be more patient? More affectionate? I don’t know, but I do know I try my best every day.
As an adoptive parent, you have to have the strength to raise a child that daily wishes and wonders about their bio family and not take this personally. You have be flexible because many of these children come with deep trauma and it will affect each of them differently. What works for one child may not work for the rest.
I work on finding forgiveness for the families that abandoned MY children. For me this is the hardest, I have anger in my heart for my kids’ biological families because they didn’t protect them, care for them and love them. I wake up everyday and choose to be a mother to all of my kids, I choose to love them, and provide for them. I choose to put them before me and there are days that I feel like I am sacrificing so much and it sometimes makes me angry because their biological families sacrificed so little.
- Why did you decide to foster/adopt?
We started fostering because my foster sister asked us to take my niece, Emma. She was a year and a half old. She said she was going to treatment and asked us to keep her until she returned. My sister went to treatment for a week but then left and got pregnant with another baby, Kye. She then took off again and had Chase. After having Emma a year the tribe asked us to take Guardianship of her and we did. When the boys came along we knew it was only right to keep them together.
- A message to someone who is considering fostering or adopting?
Do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it for the attention and the high fives from your peers because you saved a child in need. Do it because your heart has room to accept one more to love. Fostering/Adoption is a life long commitment that not only comes with the child you take in but their extended family. I know of people that have taken children in and when the child became too much work they gave them back like a faulty piece of equipment. You have to be open to unconditional love and a forever commitment.
- Parting thoughts?
November is Adoption Awareness Month. Do you know someone who was adopted, in the process of adopting a child, or thinking about it? Please share this article with them! A big thank you to Jay and Janita for sharing their story. It’s truly one of love and devotion, inspiration of the highest level. The OPEAR community wishes you and your family all the best!
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