They Did Everything Right: A letter from an adopted counselor to adoptive parents and kids.
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
I was adopted at birth. I didn’t get bounced around in the foster system, I didn’t have any physical, sexual, or emotional abuse—I was a pretty simple adoption case. My parents—my adoptive parents—did everything right. From early childhood, they showed me pictures of my birth-family, read me letters from my birth-mother, and told me all about what adoption meant for them, and for me. They told me that my birth-mother loved me very much, and that it was because of her love that she gave me up. They never made me feel like my birth-family had abandoned or rejected me, they never made themselves out to be the heroes. As I grew older, my parents encouraged me to look for my birth-family. They did everything right.
Despite everything, I struggled as a child and teen with identity issues and self-esteem. In my later teens, I was a nightmare. I aligned myself with dark things and dark people, dabbled in petty crime, and spent my time sneaking around with girls. I felt different, incomplete, and weird. My feelings manifested in my behavior and interests. Eventually my parents were concerned enough that they sent me to therapy, where my counselor helped me dig deep into who I was—who I still am today. It was through this work in therapy I discovered that the hole in me was in the shape of my birth-family. Even though my case was simple, even though I was adopted at birth, I carried the trauma of separation. I grieved, though I didn’t know it at the time, the loss of my blood. I felt bad, too—as if I were ungrateful to my parents for adopting me; as if by pining for my blood, I somehow didn’t love them the way I should. Eventually I found my birth family, and regained huge pieces of my missing self just through knowing them. I felt anchored for the first time in my life. Unfortunately the experience of finding my birth-family did not come without its challenges, and I grieved the loss a second time when I discovered from what stock I came. Grieved the loss, and rejoiced in the finding at the same time—being adopted is… complicated.
My point, is that if you’ve adopted a child and if you’ve done everything right, your child still has a long journey ahead. Adopted children carry a trauma and a grief simply from the separation, even if they’re adopted at birth. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Every day I’m so glad I carry only the weight of adoption, and not the weight that my younger siblings bear from growing up in a toxic home. Adoption is a beautiful redemption and can seem like a fairytale ending, but no fairytale is complete without the poisoned apple, the enchanted spinning wheel, or the cursed prince. I don’t say these to discourage you, in fact, I hope my story can give you the courage to ask for help. Seeking counseling for your adopted child, or for yourself as an adoptive parent doesn’t make you weak; it doesn’t mean you’ve done it wrong. Asking for help is a selfless act of love, much like giving up a child for adoption, much like taking in a child in need of a good home.
The other message in this post is for adopted children: If you were adopted, and find yourself struggling with who you are, or wrestling with the emotions you feel toward either your biological or adoptive families, you’re not alone. You’re not ungrateful, you’re not unloving, you’re not unwanted. It may be helpful to find someone to talk to—a professional, or an adoption support group, or any number of people who will just listen without passing judgment.