The Long Road Home: Understanding, Healing, and the Adoptee’s Journey

I’ve recently embarked on drafting a blog post about the lifelong journey of adoption. In my role at AdoptOntario, I’ve frequently encountered discussions about the enduring challenges adoptive families face. Coincidentally, as my birthday month approaches—a time for reflection—I find myself pondering my life’s trajectory.

I am now in the second half of my life, having lost my adoptive parents and my biological mother. However, I still have my biological father, and I cherish the connection we share. This year, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my childhood years, wondering what my ten-year-old self would think of the life I’ve created and the relationships I’ve maintained.

At ten, I was just beginning to navigate the complexities of puberty. In fifth grade, I started to understand myself more. I felt physically awkward.  I excelled in school, had a circle of friendships, and developed a passion for reading and astronomy. I even dreamed of becoming an astronaut, though I constantly grappled with a sense of displacement. This feeling, I believe, originated from my adoptive parents’ hesitancy to discuss my adoption openly. While it was not a secret, my questions evidently made them uncomfortable, leaving me to confront my feelings of alienation and a deeper fear of being unlikable, all by myself. This reticence created distance in my relationships, including those with my parents, and became a secret inner conversation I carried into my thirties, as I was building my own family.

Becoming a mother strengthened my inner voice and spurred me to learn more about my origins. As my husband and I built our family—a sanctuary of our own—I felt like an archaeologist uncovering truths piece by piece. Through this process, the real me, previously hidden, became increasingly visible. How I wished to share this more intimately with my parents, whose fear of my biological family made such sharing nearly impossible.

Looking back, I ponder why my parents struggled so much to talk about adoption. They are not here to answer. Many adoptive parents have taught me that their fear of rejection—by the child or society—can significantly affect their willingness to discuss adoption. Others have shown me that the pain of infertility can run as deep as the pain of separation from family. I suspect both themes were present for my parents. Understanding this has helped me find grace and soften my heart towards them, despite the impact on me.

Susan Branco, JaeRan Kim, Grace Newton, Stephanie Crisp-Cooper-Lewter, and Paula O’Laughlin recently published a new model of adoptee awareness that emphasizes the crucial role of adoptee consciousness in the healing journey. While it may initially lead to relationship ruptures, it can ultimately expand perception and empathy towards those who inadvertently caused harm. My journey has indeed been one of rupture, dissonance, and later, expansiveness and activism.

In retrospect, the journey of adoption and self-discovery has been complex, often marked by solitude and misunderstanding. Yet, it has also been a path of profound growth and connection. The process of piecing together my past, understanding my parents’ perspectives, and forging my identity has been like navigating a complex mosaic, each piece a crucial part of the whole.

As I continue to reflect on my life, especially during this month of personal significance, I am reminded of the strength and resilience that have emerged from my experiences. My ten-year-old self, with her dreams and uncertainties, could not have envisioned the richness of the life I lead today—rooted in love, understanding, and a sense of belonging that transcends traditional family and connection definitions.

Through open dialogue and shared stories, we can foster a deeper understanding of adoption’s nuances, the importance of embracing our histories, and the beauty of building connections that honor our entire selves. In doing so, we illuminate the path for those who follow and celebrate the intricate human experience tapestry that connects us all. In the end, the journey of adoption, like life itself, is about discovery, growth, and the transformative power of unconditional love and acceptance. 

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