Anna Writes: My adoption minefield

PhontoAs an adopted person there are any number of scenarios that create an awkward pause, a flushed face and a detour around answers- strangely this doesn’t seem to have lessened with age, but I think it’s a little bit easier to see the mines coming in the road in front of me. The most obvious moments come with meetings with medical professionals, and indeed anyone with an air of authority who requires some family history.

“any family history of X….?”

” I don’t know, I’m adopted”

“oh”

and so it goes, countless times, from a hygienist visit to a massage, from a gym membership application form to an osteopath, the same old questions. The same silence with a hint of pity before we all move on. I wonder what happens for the other in the silence? For me, I see the same big blank space where information could be, the facts that get taken for granted as often as the air we breathe.

“How much did you weigh when you were born?”

“…..”

“Whose eyes do you have?”

“…..”

“Where did you get that lovely curly hair?”

you get the picture….So, even if I don’t consciously think about being adopted every day, there are plenty of reminders.

Here are a few other mines I’ve negotiated over the years…..

  1. Biology, urgh, biology, you know the lessons about year 8 or 9 when we start talking about genes? seeing who can roll their tongue or working out how eye colour happens. Horrible. In the end I used to ask to be excused because the talk of who’d got what from where just drilled me into the ground with shame, shame that I didn’t know, couldn’t join in and generally all round felt like a freak…..Biology- the place where we are supposed to have common ground!
  2. Ante Natal appointments, I’ve done a few of these, I’m very fortunate, but I’ve not been so keen on the focus on history, because of the lack of mine, I had more blood tests, more probings and more curious looks than I can count and sometimes it’s been tiresome.
  3. As the children have got bigger, they come back from school with lots of wonderful homework, but by far the most challenging has been the family tree- which family? …we decided on both and had to start sellotaping bits of paper on, because of course, adoption doesn’t just affect me as an individual but each of my children- because they are also the product of the same genes and the same complex history. The teachers were nonplussed.
  4. donating blood or other parts- near impossible- I dearly wanted to donate eggs when I was younger but was informed I couldn’t without a full medical backstory. Sometimes I don’t get the rules.
  5. watching ‘Who do you think you are’. Just no.
  6. trips to the ED
  7. Children’s questions- often awkward, often unanswerable
  8. Facebook…Facebook is difficult for me on a number of levels (and is clearly a huge problem in adoption generally) it is one of the only ways for me to maintain any contact with my birth family due to geography, but sometimes it feels like self harm- seeing all the interaction between my BM and my half siblings, whilst I watch from the sidelines. I have removed myself more than once, but if I want any contact, it’s pretty much the only way.
  9. No knowledge of my birth father, other than a name. Big hole.
  10. people ‘joking’ – “I wish I was adopted” No, you really don’t. Not if you understood what it means. Not if you understood the ripples that continue to spread, year after year, even when life is ok.Not if you felt the void or touched even the edges of the loss. You really don’t.

As a youngster I found it hard to brush some of these off, some situations stung much more than was necessary, but now I’m older with a bit of a thicker skin I can see questions for what they are- just that- not an attempt to humiliate or belittle, just people doing their job.

Some of my mines will always be there, I just don’t have answers to some of the questions and maybe never will, and thats kind of alright.

But there will always be people who say hurtful things, sometimes intentionally and whatever the story of an adoption, it should never, ever be taken lightly. It doesn’t cost anything to be sensitive and to consider what other people might be carrying across their own minefields.

Let’s all tread carefully.

Anna.W

7 thoughts on “Anna Writes: My adoption minefield

  1. Gem

    Reading your post really highlights how much the threads of adoption filter into conversations many just take for granted. It makes me think about how I prepare my children for the world and how they can develop ways of, outwardly at least, coping with those experiences, whilst internally trying to understand that it’s not all there just to kick you in the stomach. As someone myself who has only one birth family member in my life I understand the feeling of rootlessness at the pit of your stomach very well. Xx

    Reply
  2. Katie Roy

    This is spot on.
    On a positive note – as an adopted person, there is the joy of meeting another adopted person and checking to see if they had the same experience as you. You hastily exchange experiences and it is such a powerful experience.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      Hi Katie- YES! I totally get that too, I really enjoy meeting other adopted people & it’s just as you describe. A powerful experience. Thanks for reading. x

      Reply
  3. Safemum

    Thank you Anna for sharing this. This is helpful and insightful. It resonates with me as a parent to adopted children and also as a mum. I’m pleased to read that you can be ok at not answering those questions and hope I can help my girls reach that stage too.

    Reply
  4. Evershar

    Thank you for writing about this – I don’t think many people realise how often adoptees are forced to reveal their status! The world is built around and for biological families. I also spend a lot of my time coping with other people’s reactions, which, as you speak about, have included that uncomfortable silence. But also sometimes questions such as “Where from?”, “When did you find out?”, or “Have you searched for your real family?” – or some story about their cousin’s friend’s uncle’s step-daughter who’s adopted. Sigh.
    @evershar

    Reply

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