Posted in adoptee, adoption, Blogging

Adoption: the trauma and the beauty

With Po Po prior to my relinquishment (Circa 1985)

So, I’m going to be vulnerable and share some thoughts on here that I’ve been sharing in the adoptee community on TikTok. Sharing and also learning about.

For anyone who isn’t aware, and I’m sure most of you are, I’m adopted.

– My adoption story is a good one, I would even hesitate to say I feel pretty blessed. And I am grateful for the life I have.

– I adore and love my parents, they know this, I know this and the people who matter know this.

– I have learned relatively recently that maternal separation of a baby from its mother is trauma, it alters the development of their brain and impacts their lives in ways that can be hidden but can manifest in a myriad of ways especially in our mental world. Therefore adoption is trauma. (It does make sense though since separation anxiety can affect children even when they are older ie the age range that I work with, 0-5 years of age). (Hofer, M. A. (2006). Psychobiological Roots of Early Attachment. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(2), 8488. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2006.00412.x)

– My parents, looking back on my upbringing, seemed very trauma informed and understood the need to try and keep me abreast of my culture and always be honest with me as far as they could about where I came from and why.

– I was adopted internationally at a time when they were closed adoptions here in Australia. Now, at least as far as Western Australian legislation goes (and I believe for the rest of the country), adoption is open for both domestic and international systems. It is illegal to have closed adoptions in Australia (cf US adoption industry which I’ll mention in a moment)

– adoption is now considered a last resort option for safe external care (besides foster care) in Australia. Kinship care, community kinship care and permanent legal guardianship are the preferred options and the rates of adoption have decreased in Australia from the early 70s to now. It has decreased 98% from approx 9500 to only 208 adoptions in 2021. And international adoptions dropped 76% – 66 – 16 (I’m not sure this is adoption rates or actual numbers of adoptions, but that’s a staggering decrease and pretty significant) (Source: Accessed 5 May, 2023)

– on adopteetok on TikTok the majority of the conversation is between adoptees and first mothers from the US, and the story is quite different and tragically so.

– in the US, the adoption industry is a US$24 billion for profit industry which basically amounts to child trafficking. There is high demand for new born infants to supply the adoption industry even though there are thousands of eligible older children to adopt in the foster care system (though the actual goal of foster care should always be reunification with their families which is another issue altogether).

– The US can not get the UN rights of a child ratified in their country because of their adoption system. In many states adoptees cannot access their original birth certificate (I have mine) (not the adoption birth certificate which has the adoptive parents’ name on them, but the actual original certificate). And cannot access medical history of their bio families.

– all of this discourse has made me realise that adoption isn’t the dream that the media portrays. I’m one of the lucky ones who has and is grateful for my adoption, my adoptive family, my parents. But so many adoptees haven’t had it as easy as I have. Some of the stories I’ve heard on tiktok are truly heartbreaking.

– I’m also realising that my relinquishment by my birth mother (and subsequent time in the orphanage) both made a mark on the person I have become. (That trauma I mentioned), and it explains a lot.

The way I react to situations, the way I’m hesitant to reach out for help, the way I fear rejection from others… and yes, I’m coming to the realisation that is exactly one of my fears – though I used to think it was just fear of what people would think of me, but it’s actually fear of rejection because of what they perceive… the way I will put on different masks in different situations…

I am in no way complaining about these things, just learning more about myself which I know will help me be able to overcome those things by the grace of God. Having them out in the open is a good thing.

I want to end this post with two main thoughts.

1. Adoption in view of building a family is not a good thing – yes, it built my family and I am grateful for that fact. But, first and foremost it should be a child welfare tool and really there are other options out there that are preferable to adoption.

2. I am wholly grateful to my family and for the life I lead now. I am thankful for my adoption and that is okay. I am also willing to listen and stand up for those who believe that adoption is not the good that it should be, and the adoption industry, especially in the US, needs to be completely overhauled (as well as all the other forms of child welfare resources). As well as having more resources for families in crises, which is the main reason children are relinquished in the first place.

Anyway, thanks for attending my TEDTalk on adoption.

Posted in adoptee, adoption, Blogging, family is everything, my thoughts, personal, World adoption day

Who I Am: Being Adopted

I’m not asking “who am I?” Because I think I know myself well enough now to tell you who I am.

I don’t think we ever know ourselves completely, but as the kind of person who tends to think a lot, I think I can explain myself at least a little.  
Where to start, though?  
I was born in Hong Kong thirty years ago.  My mother was practically a school girl, seventeen and still at home with her parents. Being born out of wedlock it was admirable that my birth mother and my pawpaw tried to raise me even still. 
It was actually because I became seriously ill that they had to give me up. 
I was placed in an orphanage, the Po Leung Kuk, and due to circumstances out of their control I was there for three years.  I like to believe that it was all part of God’s plan and timing.  
To explain my view further, my parents, Alison and Bruce, applied for adoption and the day I was born was the day they were approved.  Bear in mind, they didn’t know I existed at that time.  They didn’t find out about me until I was 2 1/2ish.  
That’s definitely God’s doing. 
Anyway to cut a long story short, mum and dad picked me up on my third birthday and took me home to Melbourne, where I lived for seven years. 

I had some great experiences while living there. Made lasting friendships through primary school and church.

I went to Presbyterian Ladies College from Prep to Grade five. I have vague and vivid memories from my time at the school. Some good, some embarrassing. 

I remember getting into trouble for poking my tongue out at my then best friend Michelle and having to sit outside the office. I remember sitting on the stands during swimming when I was not well enough to swim talking to a friend who also wasn’t swimming. I remember playing “first is worst, second is best” when lining up to get back into class. I remember Mr Law (my year 3 teacher who was captain of North Melbourne kangaroos in the early 90s).  I remember playing with my toy horses and using the partition in my lunch box as a fence.

I remember the bully two years ahead of us, Hangman. I remember playing Mother May I on the steps. Remember going to the wrong class and being totally embarrassed. This could be where my anxiety in speaking out could’ve stemmed from. 

I remember having flute lessons and having to walk over to the senior school. I remember the under croft. I remember…

It’s amazing what one can remember, though I don’t know if these are true memories or ones that I was told about by other people. 

From church – my home church then was Donvale Presbyterian Church – I remember the old hall. I can picture it in my head, but I can’t really describe it. I remember people’s faces but I can’t remember names. Well, not all of them. I can’t picture the old church building, though as it looks very different now. It’s over fifty years old, the church. 

And then there was my horse riding, and jazz ballet and tap that I did for a year. The latter, not the former.

So many memories of Melbourne; of my childhood.  They were important years in forming who I am today.  Though I’ve lived in both Townsville and Perth longer than I lived there.  

We also adopted my younger brother in this time 
And I met my birth mother.

We moved to Townsville in 1996, and I feel I remember more of the time we lived there than in Melbourne.  I formed few lasting friendships (Sarah came to my wedding this year) and for the first few years we were part of a group of families who were all adoptees/adoptive.  
It was great to be able to be part of a group of people who had shared stories. I wonder what happened to those families?  
In this period, we went back to Hong Kong to meet my birth mother again and also to meet my brother’s birth mother.  
On a related tangent, I think it’s absolutely amazing that my parents were able to connect me with my birth mother.  My adoption was a closed one, which meant that it wasn’t actually supposed to be allowed for me to search for her.  But, mum and dad believed it to be important and I am grateful that they did.  I personally don’t remember how I felt the first time, but even now it’s still kind of surreal when I think of her, as I consider my parents to be my parents.  As it should be.  
Another note, I probably faced racism in school, but it wasn’t something that ever fazed me any, it was all kind of just a part of the ingrained culture of high school and wasn’t any more bad or worse than any other form of teasing.  
Even as an adult I don’t really get any negative racism from anyone.  And I think the fact that I was brought up to tolerate and accept people who are different from me helps in this.  Also my upbringing in the Church.  
I know I haven’t mentioned much about that, but, I’m talking on more of a broad view of my life as an adoptee.  However, in essence, God is at the centre of all of it.  So, there really isn’t any need to delve into my faith right now. 
I must mention briefly that when I was in high school and doing my first degree while living in Townsville, we went to a Presbyterian Church that I eventually started to only go to once a month or so, because it just wasn’t drawing me.  I never moved away from God, even when studying a science degree, but I just became jaded about the church itself.  
Fast forward to when we moved to Perth, and I found my second home, Riverview.  But, that’s a whole other blog post.  Suffice to say that my 9 years in this city has helped me grow even more in myself, and forever reminds me of how grateful I am for the opportunities I’ve been afforded because I was adopted, and the people I’ve met.  Including my wonderful husband, who is also adopted (along with his sister and her husband).  
Adoption is special.  Adoption is about creating family.  Adoption is all about love.  
God bless you all.
**Apologies for the disjointedness of some of this blog.  I don’t think in perfectly, grammatically correct English.