As 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”
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…..
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- watching ‘Who do you think you are’. Just no.
- trips to the ED
- Children’s questions- often awkward, often unanswerable
- 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.
- No knowledge of my birth father, other than a name. Big hole.
- 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.