As a 19-something-year-old adoptee living in a Western society, I’ve often been thrown the phrase, “you’re so lucky!” after telling someone I’m adopted. I’m sure there are a few other adoptees who will relate to this post. (Disclaimer: this is not a post about my ungratefulness, just one that makes a few points).
(Me, circa 2000)
Firstly, yes, I was one of the lucky ones. Why? Because I have a loving and supportive family who accept me and love me unconditionally. I got to grow up in a first world country. I received a good education and have the freedom, opportunities and equality that many children my age don’t have in third world countries. Yes, I am lucky because I get to travel and do what I love most. I didn’t have to grow up farming rice or working in factories or walking 30 kilometers to collect water. And yes, I don’t have to wash my hands and feet in dirty water and put up with stinky and hot air-conditioner-less nights. And for that I am grateful and have learned not to take my privileged life for granted. But I digress.
(This unrecognizable image of a young orphan girl is me)
In that respect, I am a lucky person. I got a “second chance” at life. But there are a few things I never got to experience. I never got to meet my birth mum, and I probably never will. I never got to experience the intimacy of mother-daughter bonding that is so crucial in the first few years of an infant’s life. I’ll never know what my biological parents look like, and chances are, I’ll never meet them. You think I’m lucky? That I’ll never have that closure? I’ll never know why my birth parents gave me up. Some adoptees make that their life mission — to find their birth parents, to ask all these unanswered questions. To get closure. But for me, I’ve never thought about doing that. I guess I don’t want to. Why? Maybe I’m not ready to find out, or maybe there’s a part of me that thinks, “I am already lucky, why go digging through the past?”
For many adoptees, we spent months, or years, in an orphanage. I’ve never considered myself lucky that I had to grow up for three and a half years in an orphanage, with the label “orphan” attached to me. I lost three and a half years of my life. I grew up with three and a half years without memories. Some adoptees wait even longer before they’re adopted. Some orphans are never adopted. Sure, I have so many things right now that I want/need, but knowing my birth parents is the one thing in life I’ll never have, or get. So please don’t tell me that I’m so lucky to be adopted.
(I recently received my British citizenship!)
This unluckiness is intangible and will never be fulfilled. It’s like a little hole in my heart, very deep and hidden, but still there, that can never be filled. And do you know what? I am OK with that. But please, never tell me I am so lucky (to be adopted), because even though I am lucky to have these second chances and basically everything I could ever want/need, I will never have closure.
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