I have never met Julie, she reached out to me via the world wide web after learning about the #FlipTheScript Adoptee’s Voices series. Julie gave me a lot to think about. Early on in our infertility/adoption journey, we considered international adoption so Julie’s story struck a chord with me.
From China to America, this is Julie’s voice….
Julie’s story reminds me that adoption is ever evolving and that if we continue to speak up from all corners of the triad, we can continue to improve both the process and experience of adoption for all involved.
When and how did you learn that you were adopted?
For as long as I can remember I’ve know that I was adopted. I was adopted from China into a Caucasian family, so it was very obvious that my parents and I were not biologically related.
How did this make you feel then?
I don’t remember “the moment” that I was told I was adopted. My parents read me children’s story books where the main character was adopted from China and brought into a new family. Being adopted was my life–I didn’t know anything different so I just went with the flow.
How does this make you feel now?
I’m glad my parents never tried to hide the fact that I was adopted (even though that probably would have been impossible). They told me at a young age. It makes me feel grateful to my parents for telling me right away, even if I couldn’t necessarily understand.
Is there anything you feel could have been done differently by your adoptive parents that would have helped you?
There was, sadly, not much education about adoption trauma etc. when my parents adopted me. I think they did the best they could with what they knew. Looking back, there are a few things that I think could have been done differently:
- I grew up with mostly caucasian friends. Looking back, I think it would have helped me take more pride in the Chinese part of me if I had had more friends and role models, adoptees and non-adoptees, who looked like me.
- As I grew up, I didn’t feel comfortable talking about adoption in my family. I’m not sure if I just made it awkward or what. But being able to talk about being adopted freely would have helped me a lot.
- I would have loved if my parents had talked openly about my birth parents and birth family. I never really thought about my birth family when I was younger, but now that I am older, I think about them a lot but I don’t feel free to talk about them.
Is there any one thing that your adoptive parents could have done to ease your struggle with identity?
I think helping me to be proud of being American AND being Chinese would have been helpful. I did Chinese school and heritage camps as a kid but as I grew older, we didn’t do much more with stuff surrounding Chinese culture (besides going to get Chinese food ).
What are you needs/wants/desires from your birth/first parents?
I just want to know that they’re ok. I also want them to know that I’m ok, because I can’t imagine leaving your child in front of a restaurant and then never knowing what happened to her.
There’s a lot of corruption that goes on in the adoption system in China and I also want to make sure that my parents voluntarily abandoned me and that I was not forcefully taken from them.
I want to know if I look like them and how I am like them.
I want them to know that I’ve missed them and that even though they gave me up, I still love them.
I want to know that they are proud of me and still think of me.
Of course I’d like to know “why?” but that’s not something I feel I absolutely need to know.
What do you want adoptive parents to know?
- Birth family is still very much a part of adoptees, whether others recognize that or not.
- Adoption is based on loss.
- Adoptees missing and wanting to search for birth family does not mean we don’t love you.
- Your adopted child has gone through something that no child should ever have to go through…they lost their birth family.
- Surround your child with other adoptees!!
- Listen to older/adult adoptees…the truth they speak is hard to listen to, but it will help you as you navigate these unknown waters with your child. Read adoptee blogs, talk with other adoptees, etc.
- Adoptees should never be made to feel they have to be grateful.
- Adoptees need many reassurances of your love and that you will always be there for us.
- Find other adoptive parents who can support, validate, and encourage you.
What do you want birth parents to know?
(I know not every adoptee feels the way I do so I’m just trying to write some general statements that probably most adoptees would agree with)
- we adoptees think of you.
- losing you was one of the worst things that could have possibly happened to us.
- when we lost you, we lost a huge part of us.
What do you think should be done differently in adoptions today?
I think that far too often, adoption is Option A when it really should be more like Option E. Family preservation should be Option A, always.
I think one of the many reasons many birthmoms/birthparents cannot keep their child is because of financial needs. So I feel like that instead of a family coming to the birth parents to adopt the child, families who could adopt should come alongside the birth parents and say, “hey, I see the financial crisis you are in. We could adopt your child and provide for his/her needs but because we are pro-family preservation, we want to financially, emotionally, and spiritually come alongside you so you can parent your child”. (Same thing in China….far too many families have been torn apart in China because their child has special needs and the family cannot afford the medical costs. It would be so awesome for an organization to start where families who could adopt choose instead to financially support these birth families in China so their child can stay with them.)
I struggle a lot with the concept of international adoption. I don’t have a solution for this. But I feel that adopting a child out of a country and into another country is just another huge loss for the child. The child then, in addition to losing his/her family, also loses his/her birth country (for many this involves automatically losing citizenship in their birth country), birth culture, birth language, etc. I understand that it is not probably possible for every child to be adopted into a family within the birth country, but if even some could be, that would be, I think, in the better interest of the child.
What has been your experience with the primal wound?
(I’m currently reading this book but haven’t picked it up for awhile because it’s such a heavy read)
The primal wound has affected me in more ways then I could even begin to describe. It penetrates so many of my thoughts and actions.
I constantly act in ways that attempt to keep people from rejecting me. I recently discovered that this I think this is a reason why I get along with and love little kids so much…they can’t really reject me and so I can love them without reserve.
I’ve rarely (if ever) connected with my adoptive mom or dad. I think this is due to some attachment/trust issues stemming from the primal wound. Growing up, I would quickly become attached to teachers (school teachers, Chinese school teachers, Sunday school teachers, you name it)…basically women who were in some kind of nurturing position in my life. For some reason, I could be closer to them than I was to my mom and this continues to hold true for me even now.
I have major trust issues. I struggle opening up even to my best friends and others who I have learned to trust.
Even though there are people that I know love me and would never leave me, there is a constant fear of being abandoned again.
Any parting thoughts? Or points you’d like to add?
There is so much pain and loss in adoption. But there is also so much hope and healing. As I’ve really grappled with so many questions, struggles, and depression surrounding being adopted, I’ve found that God has used these really difficult things to make me stronger and to cause me to lean on Him more. He has healed me and is continuing to heal me from deep wounds from being adopted.
And I know I’ve harped on this in my answers above, but I can’t say enough how important it is to find other adoptees. I’ve found that there is so much validation and support in connecting with other adoptees…there is something so empowering and freeing about hearing someone say, “ME TOO!”.
Some really great resources:
Thank you Julie for so openly sharing your story with us!
As a side note, due to the ever increasing orphan and child head home crisis in South Africa, international adoption, the last time I checked, is no longer an option for South Africans. But I would imagine that a large percentage of adoptions in South Africa are cross cultural and cross racial, so Julie’s point of view is so very valid to our society.