Disclaimer: These are the confessions of an adoptee through the eyes of a private, closed infant adoption and Arms Wide employee. Arms Wide Adoption Services exclusively works with children in the Texas foster care system who have experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment and are in need of safe and nurturing forever families. If families are willing to take a risk with Emergency Foster Care, they can foster an infant at birth, although adoption is not a guarantee.
Part 2: “These Are My Confessions”
Week two. Part two. Another fun musical reference right from the start. This week’s post is all about my confessions as an adoptee. So thanks for the blog title, Usher. You’re the real MVP. If you haven’t read Part 1: My Adoption Story, you can check it out here.
As I mentioned last week, I am truly grateful to be adopted. It’s a huge part of who I am, and I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not been adopted. But being an adoptee isn’t easy. There’s a constant battle you fight with yourself every single day. Some days, it weighs heavier than others, but it continually lingers with you. I can only voice the confessions of an adoptee from a private, closed, infant adoption, but I do believe some of my confessions relate to all adoptees.
Confession 1: I constantly fear hurting my parents.
I wanted to put this one up high on my list, because it’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life, even to this day. Writing this very blog series, I struggled with making my adoption story and fears so public, because it meant there would have to be a conversation with my parents about it (they’re hip and follow Arms Wide on social media, so they were bound to see this). Despite always knowing and being proud of being adopted, I rarely asked questions, because I was so afraid I would offend or hurt my parent’s feelings. A lot of my teenage years especially were spent battling internal fights with myself about being adopted and where I came from. I would lock myself in my room writing dark poetry as a way to cope, instead of just asking my parents the tough questions.
I know my parents would have been willing to answer whatever they could, but I thought they would think that I thought they weren’t enough for me. Wow, that’s a tongue twister. Either way, that’s the last thing I wanted them to think. They were enough. I’m SO lucky…
But there’s this inherit, biological need to want to know where you came from.
Confession 2: People will not always believe your story.
I’ll never forget I was in first grade, and still obnoxiously, vocally proud of being adopted. I told some girls in my class (who also lived in my neighborhood) that I was adopted. They didn’t believe me. They teased me and called me a liar.
Subsequently, they showed up at my house after school that afternoon and demanded to speak to my mother – basically accusing me of showing her the utmost disrespect by claiming I was adopted (in first grade terms of course), which was probably more like, “You’re a meanie to your mommy.”
My mom defended my honor. Explained my adoption. They apologized. But that was the first time in my life my adoption didn’t feel special. It was the first time I thought I was very different from everyone else, especially from my peers, because I was adopted.
Confession 3: Learning biology in school was almost the death of me.
Fast forward to middle school, high school and even college, when you learn about Punnett Squares and DNA.
As students, we were tasked with going home and filling in our Punnett Squares. Look at your mom, look at your dad – Do they have attached earlobes? Can they roll their tongues? What color is their hair? Do they have a widow’s peak? What color are their eyes? But adopted me couldn’t do any of that. I had no idea who my biological parents were. And when I would express that to my teacher or professor, they would suggest the worst possible thing:
They would ask me to look at my known inherited traits and try to fill in my Punnett Square based on my best educated guess – try to match my biological parents’ traits with mine. Are you kidding me? As an infant, closed adoptee, the looks of my biological parents is the number one thing that haunts me. And you’re asking me to try to envision that more in depth? I don’t think so.
I would literally cry myself to sleep for days and take zeroes on those assignments. And yes, it happened more than once.
Confession 4: Birthdays are hard.
I think everyone struggles with birthdays, especially as we get older. It means reflecting on the last year and celebrating what we were able to accomplish and mourning what we weren’t able to. I don’t know about you, but with each birthday, I literally think, “Welp, I’m one year closer to dying.” Even though I may die tomorrow, aging just reminds me that it’s inevitable.
But being adopted brings an entirely different difficult component to birthdays. It reminds you that you have no idea who gave birth to you. It reminds you of all the questions you have that you’re either unwilling to find answers for or have sought out answers and came up empty handed. Birthdays are just a reminder that you’re adopted. That you’re different. They fuel your lingering adoptee battles.
Confession 5: Nature vs. Nurture shouldn’t even be debated.
Another science-related confession (as you may or may not have realized by now, science wasn’t my favorite subject). I am literally the poster child of why the nature vs. nurture discussion shouldn’t even be debated, yet it’s a topic I’ve had to debate in many science classes, even in college. By college, I learned to always let a few students go first. They would side with nature or nurture, and then I would come in and debunk the entire debate.
My College Argument:
“I am adopted. I am who I am because of nature and nurture. I’ve picked up so much from adoptive parents – like appreciating family, traveling, culture and food. But there’s so many things about me I can’t explain. And after talking with my adoptive parents, they really think some of my personality and skills are from my DNA, like my love of writing, my ability to be a mediator, and my willingness to put other’s needs before my own without even thinking about it. They are personal traits my parents caught on early to – before they could even really be taught.”
My Professor’s Response:
As usual, my college classroom went silent, and they turned to the professor. This wasn’t my first rodeo, but it was the first time my argument wasn’t validated. My professor’s response, “Well, first, debates should always be non-emotional and based on logic, not personal experiences.” I started to fume, as the other students had just used personal examples to debate their side. Then, she said, “But let’s forget for a second about your argument, and re-discuss from there.”
My Immediate Shutdown:
I shutdown and stopped participating – refusing to listen to more students debate something that was undebatable. I honestly think my professor’s ego was bruised. She probably didn’t have someone monopolize the debate so early on. After all, her intent was to show the class that there’s no right answer. But asking a room full of my peers to ignore my argument was hurtful and somewhat embarrassing. Another moment where I felt my adoption was something other than special – it felt like a burden.
Confession 6: Sometimes I just felt like the Ugly Duckling of my family.
All families experience times of extreme closeness (everyone is vibing) and then all of a sudden, we’re at each other’s throats over something silly – like spilling nail polish remover on the wooden end table and trying to use a coaster to cover up your mistake (true story, I’m a huge klutz, and got caught for obvious reasons). But as an adoptee, there were times where I just felt disconnected and misunderstood by my family. It’s hard to explain, but just being at the dinner table, seeing how no one looks like you, and thinking,
“Do I really have anything in common with these people?”
This is rare now, as I’ve grown out of being a stubborn, misunderstood teenager, and blossomed into an adult who realizes my parents just want nothing but the best for me. But it was a real problem I had, especially as a teenager. My stubbornness and feeling of being misunderstood was heightened by the unfamiliarity of my family (a feeling I think only an adoptee can really understand). I could go to friend’s house, experience their parents, and better understand where their mannerisms came from. But at home, the whole nature vs. nurture thing weighed on me – I just couldn’t as easily connect all the dots.
Confession 7: I feel guilty thinking about the what ifs.
To piggyback a little off of contemplating my existence at the dinner table, a lot of my internal battles stem from asking myself questions like WHAT IF I:
- Knew who my biological parents were?
- Hadn’t been adopted?
- Had been adopted by another family?
There is an array of more what ifs but they are typically derived first from the three listed. I wouldn’t even say fantasies, because I consider myself to be very in touch with reality, but I would make up little alter ego scenarios for each of these questions. And I still do. Especially now working in the adoption from foster care space, I think about what if I hadn’t been adopted and instead I ended up in foster care. The what ifs haunt me, and I feel guilty about it.
I feel guilty about it, because why do I even need to ask myself these what ifs? I have a great life. But being an adoptee means taking on questions like this all the time, because we just know our lives could have turned out completely different.
Confession 8: The questions are never ending.
I say the what ifs haunt me, but what really haunts me are questions. Questions like the what ifs, questions I have about where I came from, questions the doctors want me to try to answer about my unknown medical history, questions people ask me when I tell them I’m adopted. I envy people who say they have their life figured out, because sometimes I feel like all I have are questions.
Confession 9: I constantly fear the unknown.
And then, I have to stop and ask myself, “Do I even want answers to my questions??” I have seen so many family reunifications go wrong – from the biological family not wanting anything to do with the adoptee, to the biological parents being in a sour place in their lives to biological parents not being accepting of who their child is now.
As much as I’d love to know the answers – what my biological parents look like now, if they look like me, if I have any other half siblings, if they have any genetic medical issues I should be aware of, if they are doing well after doing a good thing for me – I fear the answers.
More of my fears:
- Knowing the currently unknown.
- Taking a risk to learn more about who I am – and not liking where I came from.
- What I may learn about myself in the process of gaining the truth.
- And more – they’re never ending!
Confession 10: But my greatest fear is missing out.
But my greatest fear is my inevitable regret if I don’t find out my truths. My entire life has been spent asking myself all of these questions. And to not take a chance means living without ever knowing any answers. I have some small pieces of the pie, which you’ll learn more about in next week’s blog, but I have this undeniable fear of missing a chance to thank my biological mother, who I’ve often called my guardian angel.
I’ve also seen the family reunification stories where the adoptee finally goes to find their biological parents, and they learn they are dead. I fear that will be me. I fear I’ve waited too long. But I fear I haven’t waited long enough to be ready to take on that journey. When people ask me, “Will you seek out your biological family?” I’ve always answered, “Maybe someday.” I’m sure that day will come, because my fear of missing out grows each day, and if it does, I promise an exclusive blog post about it.
Now, you know all my secrets – yikes! Most of the time, no one knew I was going through these internal battles I had with myself, besides my journal.
My hope is these confessions help people better understand where adoptees are coming from, and what they are going through. I hope it prevents some teacher from asking an adoptee to guess what their biological parents look like, when they have no idea if they’re even still alive.
While writing, I actually found another great blog where adoptees can anonymously confess their internal battles. I invite you to check it out here.
Meanwhile, this is a good transition to next week’s topic: advice for adoptive parents (and really anyone who knows an adoptee). I’m going to try to explore everything I wish my adoptive parents knew, especially as it relates to my internal adoptee battles (all while trying not to hurt their feelings, of course). Thanks again for going on this blog journey with me.
Until next week – XOXO,
Melissa Daigneault Neeley
Update: Read Part Three here.
About The Author
As the Development and Marketing Coordinator, Melissa Daigneault Neeley tracks donations, creates communication pieces, and brings awareness to the mission of Arms Wide Adoption Services. She is a graduate of the University of Florida, where she discovered her passion for nonprofit work.
Learn more about Melissa here.