Adoption Survivor

dealing with it

Would you have preferred to have remained in an orphanage?

with 4 comments

Q. What if you were one of those children who became an orphan by true means and no other family in your own country was able to adopt you? Would you have preferred to remain in an orphanage in your birth country for your childhood as opposed to being adopted internationally?

A. I have a Korean adoptee friend who was adopted at 9 and fully aware of the impact of her adoption. She preferred growing up with others in a shared circumstance, rather than being isolated in a new and foreign country. She had happiness and solidarity at the orphanage. She had only herself in North America. The isolation of our experience is the hardest part to bear.

Myself, I can not answer what-if questions. My life has been full of tragedy, and if I dwelt upon what-if’s I would be rendered incapacitated to live in this world. I try to address this hand I’ve been dealt with, with as much grace as possible. It is not easy, because I’ve been dealt a particularly lousy hand. I certainly won’t be grateful for being spared from an unknown what-if either.

I often fantasized I was in an orphanage playing with other children as I was growing up. Every adoptive parent means well and likes to think they will be an improvement to their kids lives. However, the parent’s perceptions don’t always match what we kids experience. Despite the higher mandate to provide the disadvantaged child with a better life than it had before, that mandate is poorly understood, implemented and enforced. My parents felt they were good parents, but I will never be grateful. You can read my story here:

I worry about meeting my birth mother and what I will tell her when she asks about my better life she gave me up for. Like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. And even if I wasn’t abused, I think I would question whether our culture or our society is really any better than the one I was saved from.

Q. Your adoptive mother obviously provided well for you (it is evident in your writing style, and obvious education). Would you have rathered she not have adopted you?

A. My adoptive father was a music teacher, my mother a housewife. They were educated, but not critical thinkers. My brain has always worked differently than everyone in my household. I drew. They played music. As a child I spoke in metaphors because I thought in metaphor. They could never understand what I was saying because their ability to derive meaning from a metaphor was non-existent. It is a lonely place to be when you are raised by people so radically different than you.

You will find many adoptees are excellent writers. There are so many things we are not free to express as we are growing up, that the words just incubate, waiting for the right time and place to be be born.

I became an at-risk teenager and even ended up in remedial classes. I left home at 17, dropped out of school at one point, though I did graduate. I married what would become an alcoholic, and did not return to school until I was a divorcing welfare mom. I excelled at my university and even got accepted to Yale. Today I reject my degree and choose to live as simply as I can.

There is more to life than success. Filling in the years that were taken from me and erased, searching for the beginning of my story, starving for just one face that reflects me has become a yearning that some days seems to drive all I do. I suppose it is not unlike the yearning of a barren woman. Only my identity was mine to begin with, so I am reclaiming something taken from me. My first three years formed me, don’t you think they didn’t. That experience is like the word you can’t remember, the idea you can almost put your finger on, the deja vu that makes you pause and wonder about other lives. For adoptees, that’s not just speculation. It is the vestiges of an imprint.

I know many of my troubled years were a result of being abused, adopted, inter-country, and transracial. It wasn’t until I reached my forties that the deeper impact and implications of abandonment and adoption reared their ugly head. As I said before, being severed from your identity by international adoption is surgery. On top of the wound of abandonment, which may never heal. Clearly, my life has not been better or any worse than had I stayed in Korea. But I talk to non-abused adoptees, and except for the added complication of abuse, we all are profoundly impacted. I won’t call this damage, though damage is there. I think we’ve just been forced to deal with a lot of things the majority of people have never had to deal with in places the majority of people have never had to walk. You can’t get much more profound than identity.

Coming to America did not bring me any distinct advantages that I can appreciate. Korea, the country of my birth, is an educated nation and now a first world economy. And, as prosperity has increased, so too have the conditions and regard for its women. I am researching my birth country and find many elegant things about it that belie its marginalization I have been taught to think of as a westerner.

I am moving to Korea in February and will establish residency there as I search for my birth family. It is true I probably had more opportunities here. But opportunities do not always equal happiness. I feel, I feel as if my path has been interrupted by adoption. Like it’s taken forty years to find my bearings and find my way back home.

Yes. I’d rather I not been adopted.

Written by girl4708

October 24, 2008 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Q&A

4 Responses

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  1. I for one would have preferred to stay in an orphanage. Even though i had been stolen from my family I was still well fed and not abused at the orphanage.
    It was not until my adoption that I faced horrendous abuse. Being kept in an attic and sexually, mentally and physically abused. I faced racism and bullying in school and the predominantly white community I was adopted into.
    The nun said that Canada would make all my dreams come true but I did not know that it was all my nightmares that would all come true. International adoption is evil and should be abolished.


    November 26, 2008 at 3:52 pm

  2. What a powerful statement. Much more than those that usually ask this question deserve, imo, as it generally seems to be said to completely dismiss any idea that an international adoptee might get to disagree with adoption. I mean the attitude of: “we “rescued” you from the orphanage, and anything has got to be better than that, so shut-tf-up!”

    I have read about adults in China who were raised in orphanages after an earthquake several decades ago killed their parents. They said they were glad they grew up among others with similar losses and would not have wanted to be adopted into other Chinese families where they presumably would not have had the same chance to grieve and the same chance to support and be supportive. Who are we to say otherwise? They have been speaking out in the wake of the Sichuan quakes this year, and preliminary things I have been hearing indicate that they are being heard – or at least not dismissed out of hand.
    It is a completely unfair and dismissive question that no one who was not internationally adopted is ever asked if they talk about bad aspects of their childhoods. Thanks for sharing your heart and mind, and thanks for your blog.
    Andrea aka Spydermomma


    November 27, 2008 at 7:02 am

  3. Thank you both for your comments.

    Adoption was, for me, like solitary confinement or being on exhibit in a zoo. The isolation of my circumstance was excruciating. I had nothing in common with anyone, in any way. And all the nice clothes and opportunities are poor consolation when you are totally alone in the world.

    I envy those Chinese orphans you spoke of. It is nice to hear the voices of thoughtful orphans who were able to appreciate the value of their solidarity.


    December 4, 2008 at 9:40 pm

  4. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your story. As an adoptive parent to a 3 year old from Taiwan, I take what you say to heart and to mind.

    My husband and I entered into adoption to become parents. I can have “my own”…as it seems to be referred…but chose not to. We will only be parents to this child. I am unsure what the outcome will be…as any parent, adoptive or bio, is.

    We entered into this adoption knowing that this child is not “ours” per say…but no child is, in our mind. We do know the child’s history and I have met the birth mother. And at a point in our son’s life…if he wishes…he can connect with his birth mother…his culture…his “former life”.

    I guess the reason I am writing to you…I completely respect where you are coming from…and if I were in your shoes I think I might actually agree with you.

    My husband and I do not for one second think we are providing our son with a “better life”….we feel we are providing him with what anyone in this world deserves….unconditional love, support, guidance, a place to feel safe to grow and learn, encouragement to be whatever he wants to be. We are not a replacement for the life that was left behind or taken from him…we are however his reality. We knew from day one that this journey could end in total rejection of us, our culture…everything. And he will be able to do so without guilt. We take our position as his parents very seriously…and I am totally fine to take a back seat to bio-family and culture…after all his birth mother willingly accepted to take that seat…why shouldn’t I? I will not judge his mother…I know she did it from love…I didn’t need words to tell me that…I saw it.

    My soul purpose is to raise him to be whatever he wants to be…I hope whatever it is…he is happy, confident, self assured, loved and complete. Every child…deserves that chance no matter where they come from….or what their circumstances are.

    I am reading your story as well as other adoptees so that I can parent my son best. I won’t be perfect…I will say or do many things wrong I am sure. But I can’t go forward in fear…I just have to continually be aware of what I am doing and the effect we are having on him….

    I don’t want my son to be grateful…I don’t want him to feel obligated…I don’t want him to hide his hurt or his anger…

    I want him to have the freedom to feel whatever he needs to feel to get through this and find where he wants to be.

    Again, thank you for sharing your story and reminding me what we are really doing here. Their lives are unique and delicate…and complicated. I wish you the most happiness in your journey to your homeland and in searching for your birth family. I wish you had been given what you needed as you were growing up…

    It is my greatest fear for my son that I will let him down…and his birth mother down…I have such a great responsibility to ensure his life is his own. But as I said…I can’t go forward in fear….I will continue to keep myself in check and educate myself on topics such as the one you have spoken about.

    Thank you again for sharing…it will make a difference!


    January 30, 2009 at 2:59 am

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