Guest blog: Becoming your whole self as an adoptee

There was a baby screaming somewhere in the back of the restaurant. The baby seemed inconsolable; there was a lot of commotion, parents shushing her, the restaurant staff was flustered. I felt for the caretakers and I felt for the baby. The baby with the infant language of her own could not communicate with the desperate adults, but I’m sure everyone wanted a peaceful resolution. I thought how that baby was still just trying to figure out her place in the world, how it would take some time before a proper communication could be established, but how everyone around her was working hard to connect with her. Then I thought of myself as a baby when I first arrived at my new adopted home—a tiny human being already loaded with trauma of having been relinquished. I had only spent a mere two weeks in the world, but at that point, those two weeks were already filled with mystery that it would take me decades to solve.

As the baby in the restaurant, and, I’m sure every other baby in the world, I was a delight and terror to my adopted, sweet parents. As we all grew older together, we learned how to communicate and connect with each other. My household was the perfect American home—two siblings, a doting mom and a father who supported us and whom I could count on. We weren’t rich, but we were comfortable and lived contentedly in a nice home near a beautiful lake, in a beautiful neighborhood filled with other nice families.

In other words, my childhood was almost ideal, filled with love. As a child I’ve never felt the early abandonment per se, although I did feel quite alienated; I just didn’t know how to name it. There was always this strange sensation of not quite fitting in—later, I would describe this as feeling as if I was under a giant microscope. The world was watching me, watching my every move. I was shy and filled with shame that didn’t seem related to anything… but something happened in my life that confirmed my suspicion that I was different from others.

My adoption was not a secret, and it wasn’t anything I was specifically concerned with, until I turned six and revealed that I had been adopted to some friends. I didn’t think it was a big deal. I don’t remember thinking twice about sharing my “news”—I thought that was just a cool little fact about me, like when you tell your buddies you have a famous uncle in your family.

Unbeknownst to me, the revelation was to become one of the turning points in my life—my friends’ reactions were of shock and disbelief instead of acceptance and understanding. I don’t blame them today—we were all just kids. I didn’t understand the stigma that adoption carried; I didn’t understand that to them I was a kid who must have been unwanted at some point (given up!), that I was somehow tainted. It’s funny because until that moment I was under the impression that I was extra wanted, I was after all chosen by such lovely family. I dragged my friends home to have my mom confirm my disclosure—I was still misreading their reactions, I thought they were just upset with me because they thought I had lied to them about such a… cool thing. But once my mom cheerfully admitted that what I had told them was the truth and their reactions remained shocked, I unde