As Margaret Schlegel said, in Howards End, “Live in fragments no longer!”
Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone, but still, miraculously, my own.
These are words inscribed on a wooden plaque that hung above my bed as a child that would go on to frame the first 39 years of my life. They are words that absolutely resonate with my adopted mom. For me, I think I have been more like a chimp trained to use sign language — Do they really understand what they are conveying or are they simply repeating something familiar in the hopes that it one day finally connects them to the rest of the world in an authentic way? I have been really good at repeating these familiar phrases: “I know who my real family is.” “I don’t even care if I ever meet my biological dad.” “I met my mom once, but you know, that’s all I needed.”
“I’m so lucky.”
And I am lucky. The more I learn about my biological family, the more I know I got the best fighting chance at a fulfilled and healthy life. The more I learn about my genetic predispositions, the more I am grateful that the nurture part of the nature/nurture dichotomy was what it was for me. My adopted family is the most authentic family I will ever know because they helped shape me into the person I’ve grown to be. And they probably rescued me from a life I would not even recognize today.
But there is more to my story. There is a part I was never permitted to tell — not because my parents would not allow it. Not because any one person was refusing to let me speak. It’s because the collective narrative surrounding adoption has been so one-sided for so long. It is always presented as this magical thing that happens where families who desperately want a child but cannot have one for some reason or another finally get to participate in the coveted role of parenting thanks to birth moms who are making the ultimate sacrifice. Ironically, the person conspicuously missing from this story is the adopted child. Or rather, the adopted child’s perspective is missing, traded in for an imposed narrative about how they should feel so blessed and happy and whole and wonderful about their origins.