I am an adoptee, this fact matters because it has influenced so many of my behaviors, as I touched upon in my last blog entry https://fullcircleadoptee.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/when-you-meet-someone-adopted/ . I say again, as I did in that entry, “I did not ask for this life”, (but now I share something additional) therefore, I do not apologize for certain behaviors that have developed as a result of my adoption.
I have been apologizing to anyone and everyone for the smallest missteps for as long as I can remember. “I’m sorry” for a bump, for a slight inconvenience I may put on someone, for getting in the way, for speaking out of turn, for walking too fast, for making too much noise, etc. This behavior stems from being a “people pleaser” which is further linked to being an adoptee. We are so afraid of rejection, we go through life tiptoeing around everyone in fear of being tossed out of the family, club, group, etc. But I have grown over the past 4 years and found my own personal strength and though I still find myself apologizing for stupid little things, THERE ARE SOME THINGS I DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR. With that said, I implore my fellow adoptees to find their own strength to no longer be apologetic for the following topics.
*Note: this may seem directed at a particular person…I can not deny nor confirm! It is meant to bring awareness to what I’ve been made to feel sorry for.
- I, as an adoptee, do not apologize for wanting to know MY story and how it begins. When you look at the old family photos you see your family history, I see a history that I cannot claim as my own and it makes me feel a disconnect to the family I grew up with. I, therefore, want to be able to look at a photo album of my own so I can feel connected to my history and bloodline.
- I do not apologize for being curious about my birth mother. If you had shown respect and love for the woman that gave birth to me and afforded you a child by building up her legacy for me, instead of trying to erase her from my world, there would not have been so much resentment between us.
- I do not apologize for being curious and asking questions about my past. Just because I was a baby when I was adopted, does not mean that I did not have a past and my own story!
- I do not apologize for wanting to know about and claiming the heritage of the country I was born in. I don’t apologize for calling that country “home”. That is my home, it is where I was born, it is where my story begins. It holds a special place in my heart, it connects me to my history. I’m sure you know the saying, “Home is where the heart is”, my heart has always and will always be in Colombia!
- I don’t apologize for wanting to return to MY country. I need to feel the soil under my feet. When I go home to Colombia, I simply blend in with the crowds with the way I look. When I am there, I feel a joy deep down within, the taste of the foods comfort me, the sounds of the rain sing a lullaby to my soul, the smell of the sweet air enchant me, the way breeze caresses my face with the tenderness of a mother to a child hypnotize me and the views the how the clouds enveloped the mountains absolutely mesmerize me. That is my magical Colombia, mi Patria (my homeland).
- I do not apologize for my bloodline being Colombian!!! Of all the places in the world, you consciously went there, to Colombia, to buy a child. If you wanted a child that was to be Italian like you, it would have been smarter to go to Italy to adopt. Just because I was taken out of Colombia, my country, that does not mean Colombia, my nationality and heritage would be taken out of me!
- I do not apologize for wanting to be my own person and having my own identity, which was different from the family I grew up with. Being adopted has put me into a permanent “identity crises”. I am a human being, not a chameleon. You have asked me, a person of a different color and nationality to live my life being something other than what I was born as. This is cruel, I know this was not done with malice but it has caused a trauma to my soul. I realize during the 70’s that’s what adoptive parents did. You wanted me to assimilate to you and your family, instead of allowing me to be who I actually was, this showed complete disrespect for me as a human being and for the mother and place that you plucked me from.
- I do not apologize for you having fear of losing me to my birth family. I can understand it but this should have been worked out in counseling the way I tried to get you to so many times.
- I do not apologize for NOT FEELING GRATEFUL TO YOU AND LIKE I SHOULD OWE MY LIFE TO YOU! If I as a mother, do not expect this from my children that I birthed and you say you see me as your natural child then why would I be expected to feel grateful? If you chose to adopt it should….must be out of pure love. LOVE IS SELFLESS, UNCONDITIONAL, PURE, DOES NOT EXPECT A RETURN ON ITS DEPOSIT. If you have unconditional love for a puppy, do you love it so that it can praise you and for what it can do for you? Then why should a child be different?
- I do not apologize for the resentment that is in my heart, you did damage, be it intentionally or unintentionally by bashing the country and people I was born to.
At the age of 44, I was told that I was not Colombian! My adoptive mother explained this to me by saying because I was raised in the US with Italian-American culture, I was, therefore NOT a Colombian. WTF…..I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, every single one of my ancestors was born there! Soy Latina! If I was a Chinese adoptee in the US would someone dare tell me I was not Chinese? Solely because you can’t deny the looks of someone that is Asian, but since a person from South America can blend in with the people from North America, I am denied my entire culture and nationality. Now on the other side of her mouth, she would say I was a typical Colombian because I was a backstabber and stubborn (to be honest this would secretly give me great pleasure because it meant that I showed traits of my people…the stubbornness….not the backstabber comment)! She ragged on the Colombians on occasion and what do you think this did to our relationship that always seemed to be in a fragile state?
- I do not apologize for no longer being your dirty secret hidden in a closet!
- I do not apologize for telling my story in the public forum! It is mine to tell, I am the adoptee!
- I do not apologize for not feeding into your unhealthy narcissistic ways.
- I do not apologize for making a video and putting it on Facebook, which led my family to me!
- I do not apologize if you are mad that you have no control over my actions!
Why Are You Airing Out the Dirty Laundry?
Some of this may sound salty and maybe it is but there is a legit reason that is not unique to my story. The more vocal I have become in sharing my story the more adoptees are opening up and sharing similar injustices with me. They are learning their stories are not so unique, they are not alone in their suffering! They have someone they can talk to that will understand their pain!
My purpose in writing this blog entry is for multiple reasons :
- So other adoptees that have gone through similar experiences can know they are not alone and find some support. We are made to feel like we are crazy by the families that raised us.
- We seem to feel we are loved until we no longer feed into the storyline that someone else is telling the world.
- To tell the world that adoption does not always have the happy ending the way it is so often portrayed in media.
- those of us that are strong enough, must speak out to the world and let them know what the aftermath of adoption has on us, the victims!
- We are not the ones that should be walking on glass and Always be expected to make concessions for everyone else’s feelings. It is the world that should do it for us.
As an older adoptee, I want to make it better for the generations of adoptees that will follow me. I don’t think adoption will ever be abolished but I believe I and other adoptee advocates can make a difference in making people more sensitive to the pain that is involved and to whom the compassion should be bestowed upon. We can teach those that are wanting to adopt how not to make missteps that later cause resentment, and if the adoptee shows signs of being unhappy and depressed, how then it should be addressed. Reminder, adoptees have a 4x greater suicide rate of their non-adoptee counterparts. I could’ve been part of that statistic due to the deep depression I was in until I got pregnant.
Not everyone is cut out to be an adoptive parent, as stated above, it takes someone that has extraordinary love, compassion, empathy, sympathy and a willingness to put others before their own feelings while not putting themselves on a pedestal for being that person. Someone shouldn’t have to work at it, it should come naturally. I realize that there are natural parents that don’t fit this bill but an adoptee needs that someone special because of the trauma they go through on the start of life.
If this should make it to anyone that finds themselves offended by my words…..
I OFFER NO APOLOGIES AS NONE WERE EVER OFFERED THEM TO ME!
I am not bitter, I am not angry, I have worked on forgiveness, my priority is to prevent pain and trauma from happening to other adoptees and this is only going to happen by acknowledging the lifelong, multigenerational pain associated with adoption and working to change the way adoptees are viewed in society.
If you are unsure or don’t understand what I mean by multigenerational please take a moment to read my blog entry written by my grown daughter. She writes what it is like to have a parent that is an adoptee: https://fullcircleadoptee.wordpress.com/2018/12/06/out-of-the-mouths-of-babes/
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog entry.
When you meet someone that is adopted, known as an “adoptee” what do you think about?
What Are Your Thoughts?
Do you think they are lucky? Do you think they are chosen? Do you right away think about the “poor” couple, unable to conceive, that adopted, before thinking about the adoptee?
I ask that you take the time to read this article so you can learn about what many adoptees experience throughout their lives. Many live with the emotional and psychological turmoil because of being separated from the mother that they were born of. Many work very hard to hide the struggles that affect them on a daily basis, while some don’t fare quite as well.
When you think about an adoptee do you know that adoptees have a 4x greater suicide rate than those that are not adopted. I believe that that statistic is actually a lot higher but so many go unnoticed or linked because of various reasons. Many adoptees won’t talk about their struggles and try to hide them. The reason for this is the concern of hurting our adoptive parents and family! I am speaking out because of how adoption is viewed in society and how the person that is adopted is NOT given the thought and consideration that is deserved. Media portrays adoption as some fairytale with a happy ending but THIS IS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE. In reality adoption brings a lifelong pain. I am here to advocate for every adoptee that can’t and won’t speak up for themselves. I do not speak for every adoptee but for myself and the many that have shared their stories with me.
I am not sharing these thoughts because I want you to feel sorry for me or any other adoptee for that matter. I am sharing them so when you meet someone that shares with you that they are an adoptee, you will see beyond the smile that they carry on the outside and consider the road they may have traveled, which can give you an understanding of their behaviors and mindset!
Again, I share these thoughts not speaking for every adoptee. Some of us have had good lives and families that gave us all the consideration to grow up feeling whole while tending to the trauma we needed, while there are those of us that were not afforded such a luxury. I myself had one parent that I fully connected with and loved dearly, though we didn’t speak of adoption and another parent that there was always conflict with until the relationship finally broke.
The Life of an Adoptee
I am an adoptee, is not something I’ve chosen in this life, it was the card that I was dealt. Yet it is a life event that has determined how I interact with every single person that has crossed and crosses my path.
When you meet an adoptee have you ever really thought about how they started their life? Whether adopted as a 1-day old infant or an older child the moment they are separated from their mother, an irreparable damage is done that will linger until that infant/child is long into their adulthood. Some adoptees unknowingly stuff the pain so deep down that it doesn’t rear its head until they are teenagers, become parents or something else makes it surface. This pain that we carry throughout life is called the “primal wound”. This term was coined by Nancy Verrier for which she wrote a book.
Do you realize that every relationship I have, be it romantic, friendship, and acquaintance, is laced with fear? It is common for adoptees to live in fear, that those we get close to, will leave the way our mothers did because we simply we were and are not good enough.
As adoptees, we tend to bend over backwards being people pleasers because again, we feel either consciously or subconsciously if we don’t someone will leave. We did something or didn’t do something to make our mother leave. Then there is the yearning for acceptance and want to fit in because we grew up feeling that we didn’t even fit in with the very people we called our families.
Do you stop to think that, because of this inherent fear I consciously or subconsciously (even though I crave closeness) tend to keep people at a distance? My husband always accused me of building walls! I didn’t understand that I was doing this and why I was doing this until I was in my late 30’s and started reading books about adoptees.
Do you think about how I live everyday yearning for the mother I never got to know? Do you know that when I was a child I wondered if every stranger I met was my mother?
Do you consider when you look at me that I have always been expected put everyone else’s feelings before mine? I’d have to worry about being open with my feelings for fear of upsetting my adoptive family as though their feelings were more important than my own.
Do you know that in some instances adoptive parents can’t handle when the adoptee decides they want to seek their own history. That the beginning of a search or finding a birth family sometimes causes the relationship an adoptee has with their adoptive family to dissolve.
Do you know that when my grandmother (adoptive) died old family photos were displayed and as I looked at the pictures I realized that it was not my history, I had no connection to the family history and felt it was not mine to claim?
Can you understand that even if I wanted to ignore the fact that I was adopted, every time I go to the doctors or hospital, I get asked about my family history and have to explain that I don’t know it. To explain my life to anyone I have to use words to distinguish between my life and family before I was adopted and after being adopted.
Can you even imagine going through life not knowing when you were born, how old you really are or if you have your mother’s smile which is something that brings great pride among related family members! Even though I have found my birth family I still don’t know the exact date I was born because I was born in another country that didn’t keep records the way the US does.
That brings up the issue of being an international adoptee that is another whole long conversation, but I was not afforded the knowledge of knowing my culture or even saying that I was from the country to which I was born. This is a robbery to me that is unspeakable because it caused or added to my identity crisis for many years. I had no idea I was even hispanic until I was in my 20’s. That’s not fair to me or the woman that gave birth to me. Just because she could not raise me didn’t mean that she should’ve been erased from my life. She should’ve have been honored. But is that something that is thought about when you look at my skin that is darker than that of the family I was raised?
Do you consider that an adoptee is taken from one family and then asked to erase everything from their past life, and yes they did have a past life even if a day old. Then they are expected to blend in, like a chameleon with a new family. Do you realize that genetics are sometimes stronger than environment and the adoptive families don’t always appreciate this. As my birth heritage was ripped apart many times. What does this say to a person when that is something they can’t change about themselves?
Due to the instability at the beginning of life many adoptees live with, the fear that the rug will get pulled out from underneath them when things seem to be going right.
When you talk with an adoptee do you realize that many of them have ADD because of the trauma of being separated from their mother. Some adoptees crave change because it is scary when things remain the same. Comfort means I’m leaving myself open to pain because life taught me the comfort I felt of the womb or my mother’s arms wasn’t a forever thing, therefore, wasn’t stable. While other adoptees fear change because change meant they will relive the instability mentioned above is how they started life.
Society tells us, adoptees, over and over again that we should be grateful for being adopted, so innocently and some overtly, with statements like:
- You should be grateful, you were chosen.
- I chose you!
- Aren’t you lucky you were saved from that orphanage.
- If it wasn’t for me you’d probably be dead.
- Because you were adopted you were given opportunities you would never have had if you still lived in that third world country.
- Your mother loved you so much that she gave you up for adoption.
There are so many more but please think about all the trauma that an adoptee has gone through before putting these thoughts on them!
My favorite quote in the world:
“Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful” – The Reverend Keith C. Griffith, MBE
My Final Words
Before ending this, I share with you a piece of my soul, I ask you to remember it when you shake the hand of a person that trusts you enough to share that they are adopted:
You see me here, as I wear a beautiful smile,
But this is for the outside world, I’ve worn it since a child.
It is my super hero cape, my protective coat of amor,
It hides the tears I cry, yearning for my Mama.
I’ve lived a life always feeling pain within,
Never truly knowing, where my story begins.
I’d be the missing piece, to someone else’s puzzle,
And live forever more, with this daily struggle.
I’m told to be thankful, for destiny has stepped in
She had different plan, surely it was a win.
For life handed down, this one final option.
A lifelong sentence, known as adoption!
by Leticia Rodriguez Mendes
For this particular entry I hope it shed some light, I hope it will be shared, it is not meant to offend but merely tell a truth for those of us that struggle with some or all of the mentioned issues.
I am an older adoptee, 46 years old, and feel that my experiences which have been both good and bad, can be used to educate prospective adoptive parents on how to treat, what to do and not to do for an adopted child so that they can grow up with their trauma addressed and healing forged right from the beginning.
With much love and gratitude in my heart, I thank you for taking the time in reading this through!
You see me here as I wear a beautiful smile, but that is for the outside world, I’ve used since a child.
It is my super hero cape, my protective coat of armor! It hides the tears I cry, longing for my mamá.
I’ve lived a life always feeling pain within, never truly knowing how my story ever really begins.
but all of that doesn’t seem to matter, I gave some other woman the gift of having a daughter.
I’m told to be thankful, as the world gave me an option, but none ever asked if I wanted to be part of adoption.
Now I share with you the last part of my reunion story and what I have learned which are the reasons for me writing this blog entry in the first place.
Complications of Being an International Adoptee
If you missed the previous entries you can access them by clicking on the following link: https://fullcircleadoptee.wordpress.com/2019/05/03/one-year-post-reunion-part-1/ and https://fullcircleadoptee.wordpress.com/2019/05/04/one-year-post-reunion-part-ii/ I wrote about happy, sad, true and complicated moments. Being in reunion can been a bit complicated, and hard to navigate. There are many emotions to process and things to learn in and of itself but now let’s add the complication of being an international adoptee.
Lost In Translation
I was adopted from Colombia and taken to the US at the age of about 18 months, to be raised by a Italian American family, hence we only spoke English. I was told that I did speak Spanish at the time of my adoption, but I imagine it was quickly lost. From the time I started seriously started searching I have been chasing my native language to regain it, but the frustration is real as I have tried so many different methods and programs such as Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone to relearn it. Over the past few years phone apps have become a popular method and I have tried them too, but never really felt I learned enough to carry a conversation. I always chased the language as a way to reclaim some of my culture. Little did I know that the language that I lost as a toddler would cause distance beyond the physical ocean between me and my sisters.
When I reunited with my birth family there were so many emotions that did not need words. We could feel the joy of being together, we could read each others faces and body language, but there were stories to tell and they didn’t speak English and my Spanish was limited. Though I could feel their emotions, we had to use a phone app translator to communicate the entire time we were together. I can tell you that even with the translator so much get lost in translation. I have been told so much about my mother but to this day I don’t know all that was said to me. I don’t understand certain aspects of my story or my mother’s story. There is so much that I want to express to my sisters but struggle with. I long to have a normal conversation as I do with my friends. My kids don’t talk with them all that much because of the language barrier. I know this hurts my sisters and it hurts me. I feel that my kids are missing out on what they longed for, lots of aunts, uncles and cousins.
Two Different Worlds
Now let’s throw in cultural differences. Our culture has a lot of influence on how we process things in life. One of the ways this became apparent to me when sharing my emotions with my sisters. They are tough and though they are very warm they don’t openly talk about their deep feelings and they don’t cry all that much. When we were together, tears of utter joy would well up, as I could not believe I was with my sisters. I would be overcome with emotion as I scanned the a room filled with people that were my own blood, people that looked like me. My sisters would tell me to stop, they said that crying was ugly. I think it made them uncomfortable, they were strong and saw crying as being weak. This was a little hard for me to process because I had been hiding my feelings my entire life, I just wanted to feel what I was feeling without fear. Another cultural difference how we view and deal the stressors in life.
With this being said it is was, has been and continues to be painful because seeing my family and all of their Colombianess highlights all that has been lost due to me being adopted to another country and into a family that was not of my origin. I even got called a “gringo” and this one word tore me up. “Gringo” in Colombia means American but I grew up with it meaning white person and I was NOT. I have written a lot about the pain of being an “International adoptee”, especially regarding the loss of my culture in the following entry: https://fullcircleadoptee.wordpress.com/2018/11/13/international-adoptee-part-3/
I’d Travel the World to Get to You!
Now let’s talk about the physicality of my reunion. The day the results confirmed our relationship I just wanted to run to them, I wanted them in my arms and I wanted to feel their arms around me but this would not be possible because they didn’t live in a different city or state, they lived on another continent. I had to be able to by two plane tickets, get the time from work, and my husband had to apply for a passport. Due to the cost and requirement of passports my children were not able to go with us, as a matter of fact they have yet to meet them person. This is incredibly sad for all of us. It would take four months for the physical reunion to finally take place. However, when it did….it was absolute heaven, I felt complete, I found home!
Now 1 year post reunion, this distance some days, I feel is near killing me. I was only able to spend 5 days with my sisters that live in Venezuela and maybe 10 with my sister that lives in Bogota over the last year. This is not enough! Thankfully there is video but it’s just not the same. I crave the time really needed to truly get to know them. I want to be there for family events, and with 5 sisters and 12 nieces and nephews that are many events. I want to be there for mundane day to day routines. I want to be there for my sisters when they have a bad day. There are days I need a hug from them. I have a nephew who is expecting his second child and I want to be there to visit the baby when it’s born but the likelihood is that I won’t be there. I need to be able to get sufficient time off of work to travel.
I have been so homesick that I fight to keep the tears back when I’m not working and my mind is not occupied. I feel myself slipping into a depression because I feel so torn between the family I have here, my husband and grown children and my family there. I want to pick up and move there but this is not practical. Then, my thoughts race about living part time here and there but I have a job and pets. I question whether the pain from being separated is worse than the pain I felt when I was searching.
Another HUGE wrench in all of this is that 4 of my sisters live in Venezuela, if you don’t know why this is significant Google “latest news for Venezuela”, their country is suffering, there is little food, work and at times little light and internet. The US has a travel ban for Venezuela. When we went to go visit, we couldn’t go to their homes which is where they wanted us. they wanted to share a part of their world with us, they wanted me in their world. They also wanted me to see where our mother was buried, as she is buried in Venezuela, but due to the current states of affairs in Venezuela we could not. We ended up meeting them in a town right at the border in Colombia. Thankfully they live in the first town over the border in Venezuela so it was not difficult for them to get to where we were.
It has been and continues to be so difficult because of being taken from the country I was born it and now living so far away. I find myself being a part of this big family but with only one foot in, which is unchanged from the family from my childhood. All of my poor self-esteem plays on my mind, due to the separation. I find myself wondering if they care about me, if they miss me, if they are going to forget about me. I know logically this is untrue but psychologically it plays on my mind.
What Reunion Taught Me
Now to address the lessons learned. As I mentioned earlier, the biggest lesson was that reunion does not wipe away adoption trauma. I should’ve done “the work” prior. I searched for twenty-five plus years so it was not a matter of not having the time. If you are at the beginning of your search seek mental help to prepare you. I also believe you should read books, educate yourself and try to prep for the many possible outcomes.
Secondly if you are an international adoptee and you lost your first language take lessons while you are searching. It was terrible to know that heartfelt words got lost in translation. Even if you used a translator, you’re going to lose a little bit of sentiment that we put in our words. Yes, there are moments that simply did not need a translator of words but why cheat yourself of precious moments.
I only recently started digesting on all of the emotion that is brought forth by reunion. Some of that is learning that reunion brings forth grief. The grief comes when you begin to realize that you have missed so much of a life that should’ve been yours. For me I began realizing that I missed out on growing up with my siblings, missed out of their special moments in life such as weddings and their children being born. I missed out on having other people that would walk with me through life’s lessons. There has been grief in finally finding my family by realizing I was too late to find my mother alive, so now I must swallow her death and grieve for the woman that gave birth to me but I didn’t know.
Another thing to think about, however, it is not so much a lesson but outright unsolicited advice. Depending on how big your new found family is and how close you become with them, your time and attention is now diverted from your immediate family. My husband and children have endured living with an adoptee, my search and now my reunion. Remember they did not ask for this life and yet they get to be put through the wringer of all the crap that comes with adoption. My daughter took the time to write a blog entry about her feelings and experiences: https://fullcircleadoptee.wordpress.com/2018/12/06/out-of-the-mouths-of-babes/ and my husband also took the time to write about his experience https://fullcircleadoptee.wordpress.com/2018/12/11/love-is-blind/ . It’s hard on them, they are happy for you but to a degree feel as though they lost a piece of you and they are now second fiddle. Try to take the time to shut your phone and give them your undivided attention. I had to work on this and still do.
Lastly, I learned that life is not perfect and neither is reunion. There is a lot to process for all involved. There are feelings of joy, shock, sadness, anger, and exhaustion. Because of this I have sought therapy and so have my children. If you fail to do “the work” as I did, it isn’t too late even when you’re post reunion. Get the help that will be needed to sort out all the emotion that reunion brings.
I have no regrets and love my birth family, I believe up until now I’ve been extremely fortunate and blessed. I know very well not everyone in reunion is able to say the same thing. My sisters wanted to get to know me and my mother’s family all welcomed me with opened arms despite me returning like a ghost from the past reminding everyone of a history of mistakes made. I purposefully remind myself that nothing is perfect, siblings included. I sometimes feel like I am in the middle of them because there are so many of them with different personalities, but it is a learning process for all involved.
I can’t wait to get back to them and can’t wait for my children to be able to meet all of them. They have each have brought a richness into my life. I love their different personalities. I love that I finally have love and support in my life by family but I also have best friends.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope this can be of help to someone out there!
Blessings to all that have taken the time to read this or any of my other blog entries!
My Mother and Unanswered Questions
Then there was the subject of my mother, as time went on, I got more and more comfortable to ask my sisters about my mother. For them it was simple, we will fill that space, you will know your mother through us, but as I type these words the tears fall. And I have but it is not the same thing. I missed out on my mother, getting to know who she was, her personality and me not being there when she died.
My sisters explained their lives were no fairytale, our mother was not perfect. But this does not matter to an adoptee. We would give up everything in a heartbeat to be with the woman that gave birth to us, no matter what we had to endure. The following was the most striking and relatable part for me, of Nancy Verrier’s book, The Primal Wound where she references the book Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst and then gives an explanation:
A young boy lies in a hospital bed. He is frightened and in pain. Burns cover 40 percent of his small body. Someone has doused him with alcohol and then, unimaginably, has set him on fire.
He cries for his mother.
His mother set him on fire.
It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of mother a child has lost, or how perilous it may be to dwell in her presence. It doesn’t matter whether she hurts or hugs. Separation from mother is worse than being in her arms when the bombs are exploding. Separation from mother is sometimes worse than being with her even when she is the bomb. (p13)
I’m not saying this was how bad my mother was, but merely making the point that it didn’t matter how rough my sisters said they had it growing up I still would’ve have chosen a life with her than a life without her.
This lack of understanding spotlighted a disconnect between my sisters and I, which caused some fear on my part. As we inched closer to the physical reunion as it took some time to happen, my anxiety grew, I worked even harder to try to get them to understand that I was in pain. They took it as me looking to them to answer for my mother’s actions and honestly, looking back maybe I was. I do regret this.
With the help of my niece I finally was able to face that there were some questions that had would never have answers, because it was only my mother that could answer them. I also had to accept that my sisters will never understand my primal wound. It is only another adoptee that can truly understand this pain, so I had to stop putting in on them.
Another pain to cope with is that she never spoke of me. It was so hard to get passed there being no answers and then learning there was a lack of emotion on my mother’s part regarding me not being in her life. Though, this was so hard to swallow, I was so grateful that my sisters were honest as much as it hurt. One can speculate as to why my mother did not speak of me but it would be just that, speculation. I was now realizing that I had to work on acceptance for many things. I finally had answers to so many questions that I had throughout my adoptee life and some of them were not so pretty while others would remain questions forevermore.
Before the physical reunion I was also learning how siblings interact with one another, as this was new to me. I was learning the dynamics of their relationship and it was overwhelming and scary at times. Again, the fantasy that you conjure up as a kid is hard to overcome when learning about reality.
The Time was Finally Here
Four months after our relationship was confirmed my husband accompanied me to meet my sisters in person. When I got off the plane, I wanted to run to them as I could see them in the doorway past the luggage area, we had to collect the luggage but I just wanted to leave it. Finally when we crossed over to where they were waiting, I didn’t know who to hug first, I didn’t want to offend any of them, and then I don’t remember what happened. I just remembered looking into each one of their faces and thought how beautiful each one was. Once again, the shock had set in. My mind raced and struggled to believe that this was real, I kept saying over and over in my head, “I have sisters, I have a family that is truly of my own blood”.
The anxiety had finally fallen away instantly because of the way it felt to be among them. They each treated me like I was the little sister taking care of me and making sure I was ok. I recall throughout the trip looking at each one of their faces over and over again, staring, not believing my eyes! I was amongst them, I was seeing them interact, I was seeing the role that each one took in relation to one other. One was mothering to all, another quiet and understated, one a reformed wild child and the last living life to her own tune. They cooked for me and shared stories and photos and best of all their families. They showered my husband and I with love and for the first time I did not feel alone is a room full of people, I was no longer the balloon floating above everyone. I was part of them. My nieces and nephews, age ranging from 15 to 32 years old were extremely warm. They hugged me and took plenty of photos with me. They also came with their wives, girlfriends and children for me to meet. Just thinking about it brings a huge smile to my face. My husband and I traveled to three different cities in Colombia to meet everyone, it was fantastic and extremely tiring both mentally and physically.
Building the Relationship
Over the year I celebrated everyone’s birthday from afar, grateful to now be a part of this aspect of each of their lives. We talked like teenage school girls and continue to talk sometimes multiple times in a day. It is rare to go through a whole day without contact with at least one of them, including my nieces and nephews. My favorite new title is “tia” (aunt) in spanish.
My relationship with my sisters has blossomed over the past year. I have built a relationship with each one, I am learning their personalities. We have shared many conversations about many different subjects that I think only sisters can talk about. I think I have always been a leery of women. My guard has always been up, not having trust in them but now I share my life with 5 beautiful and amazing women. I have learned and know that they have a love for me unlike anything I have ever felt. They actually care about me and what is happening in my life. To know that I am loved in this way leaves me speechless.
One the flipside because this blog is about truth, I’ve had to learn about interactions between siblings and the dynamics between mine. At times I feel like I need to be careful because each one is watching and paying attention to how I interact with the other ones. This is hard because all I want to do is enjoy each one for who she is. I spent my life feeling alone and disconnected (not counting my husband and kids), at times I feel they don’t understand there is so plenty of love in my heart to give to each one of them equally but differently as each one of them brings something different to my life.
Please join me tomorrow to read the final part where I discuss how being an international adoptee has complicated all of this.