Assembling Self

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adoption And Identity Loss

"We shall not cease our explorations, and the end of our exploring will be to arrive back where we started and know the place for the first time" -- T.S. Eliot

From birth children look into their parent's eyes and mirrored back are similar smiles, eyes, voices, and faces.  In adoption that is missing.  Many people say they feel like outsiders in their biological families and that they don't fit in and try to compare that to being adopted.  I understand that in many cases this is true, but not nearly in the capacity that adoptees do with no shared heredity to the families they are adopted into.  It can make adoptees feel isolated and ostracized especially when the subject is one that is misunderstood, and is refused to be discussed and addressed in adoptive families.

I am just one example of mismatched genetics in adoption.  My adoptive parents are quiet, conservative, introverted, and undemonstrative.  I am talkative, extroverted, nonconformist, and emotional.  Neither is right or wrong.  They just are both very different.  Add to that the lack of any physical characteristics being the same, and include the expectation of an adoptee fit in, and the whole situation is set up for failure. 

When I obtained my non-identifying information and letter from my natural mother through the adoption courts (no names, cities, addresses given) I was overwhelmingly happy and surprised to learn that I am absolutely a product of genetics. From physical description, to hobbies, to personality, and even down to handwriting.  What a wonderful revelation to finally know at least a part of who and why I am.

I have had the privilege over the years to watch hundreds of reunions between adoptees and their families of origin.  To finally be able to see pieces of yourself in others physically is something adoptees appreciate and celebrate more than those who grew up with it.  Knowing where your sense of humor, your habits, likes and dislikes stem from gives you validation of who you are.  I know I am always comparing my friend's family photos and finding similarities between children and parents, sisters and brothers, grandparents and grand children.  I have watched adoptees and natural parents do the same when finally finding one another and the intense jubilation and celebration that comes for it.  Not knowing who and where you come from is a void in our lives that will always long to be filled.


  1. Even though by birth mom is deceased, to see pictures of her and see how much we looked a like meant the world to me. It was HUGE! Non adopted persons will never understand the importance of knowing where you come from and seeing someone who looks as you do. (Even if you find them too late.)

  2. Great post Karen. I was amazed to hear how much I am like my mother. When I met my birth siblings, my brother said, "Wow, mom has come back from the dead." Yes, not only do I look a lot like her, but we laughed the same too. I used have to drink one Pepsi every day and I guess I followed in her footsteps...her beverage of choice was one coke. The relatives just kept staring at me :). I found it interesting how growing up "rich" meant nothing to me and it appears that in must have been in the genes. My bio mother didn't seem to put much emphasis on material possessions as well.

  3. TY I know I am a huge secret and I have come to accept that as best as I can. But, I just want some photos and the ability to do genealogy research with the names my genetics came from. Maybe someday.

  4. To deny adoptess the chance to have what others have is so cruel and wrong.We all need that connection.

  5. Yes indeed! The sheer joy of seeing someone who looks like you! or finding where your talents come from! Things most people take for granted.

    And how sad it is that adopted persons are issued a falsified birth certificate loistign their adoptive parents as parents of birth, and allowing them to never even be told they are adopted. The state issued fraudulent birth certificate not only changes their name, it often changes the date and place of birth, and even the person's race!

    How awful that adopted persons are denied access to their real and true original birth certificate in 44 of 50 states...forever... something all others take for granted.

    In addition to being denied the ability to lay eyes on a blood relative, they are also denied the ability to ask about their family medical history, and generally have none.

    They are discriminated against and treated as second class citizen. Yet we are told to believe that adoption is 'for the best' and in the best interest of those adopted! Not entirely so.