Today’s blog post is written by Purl’s Administrative Assistant, and transracial adoptee, Emily. She shares with us her feelings toward her birthday, and how this feeling has changed with every passing year.
For adoptees, birthdays can be strange. It’s an odd day to celebrate given the anniversary of loss that surrounds that day. It wasn’t always this way for me – my adoption wouldn’t even cross my mind during my birthday. When I was younger, birthdays were filled with fun and laughter, and I was surrounded by my very loving family. As I grew older, each year that passed made me think more and more of my birth family on that day. I can’t help but wonder if they think of me. This year I turned 21 and I’ve never even seen a picture of my birth parents. This is something that bothers me sometimes, but I know they must have their reasons. My adoption story has made me realize a sad truth: They must’ve experienced a great trauma on that day 21 years ago. I gained a loving and thoughtful family because of their selfless decision.
It is important to recognize those, such as my birth parents, who made this difficult decision for their little one, and opted to have no contact. There are an infinite number of reasons they might’ve had for deciding on a closed adoption. Recognizing these things has helped me to understand how it must’ve felt for them back then. I used to be so angry with them – I would think “How could they have given me away like that?” or “Didn’t they care about me?”. This was taking a great toll on my self-esteem, and it hindered my image of people I know nothing about, which is unfair to them. Now, I know that they didn’t give me away, they may have just been trying to allow me to have opportunities I may not have had otherwise. They made this decision BECAUSE they care about me.
Although it’s common for people to think that adoptees who were adopted at birth don’t experience trauma, it isn’t entirely true. When a child is placed for adoption at birth, everything they had been used to, even in utero, the sights, sounds, and smells are all gone. A child can begin to feel and learn while still inside the womb. That being said, not all adoptees will experience trauma, as every adoption story is different. Trauma, however, can create fear and stress sensitivity in children. Even from birth, an adoptee’s internal systems may already be more sensitive and fearful than that of a child who remains with their biological parents. Mothers that are planning on placing a child with adoptive parents can likely feel increased stress during their pregnancies, which can affect the growing fetus. Before working with Purl, I had no idea that prospective adoptive parents could be chosen by expectant mothers before they’ve even given birth. I think this pre-birth matching is a great way for expectant parents to gain a sense of comfort and support, but it’s important to recognize how they must be feeling during this time of anticipated loss.
Recognizing all three of the members in the adoption triad is important when considering the trauma each of them have faced. My birthday is a reoccurring reminder of the loss that my birth family (whom I don’t even know) experienced a great loss. Also, it’s important to think about the loss and trauma that prospective adoptive families may have experienced before pursuing adoption. Sharing my story with others and realizing that I’m not alone in these feelings has given me an intense amount of comfort. It allows my voice to be heard, and I hope others can be inspired to share their stories too!