I was driving the kids to school the other day, and it occurred to me that sometimes being adopted is like having amnesia. We’ve all seen movies where someone wakes up from a coma and has amnesia. They are sitting in a hospital bed with lots of questions that need to be answered. That is kind of how adoptees feel sometimes. I am an adoptee who has been in reunion for about a year and a half. Being adopted and being in reunion both bring about situations and feelings that others can’t really get unless they have been there themselves. Here are some ways being adopted can be like having amnesia:
1. Not knowing who you are.
I mean, you know who you are in the sense that you are the person inside that body thinking those thoughts, but you don’t really see the whole picture. I thought I knew myself as an adoptee. I was independent. I was confident. I felt complete. But now that I am in reunion I am even more me than I was before. That doesn’t mean I was less before, just that I have all the pieces now that tie everything together. There are no more questions unanswered or doors left unopened. Now I know who I got which traits from and a full medical history.
You are made up of hundreds of tiny facts of choices and decisions that have been in your life. Adoptees hear a great deal about nature vs. nurture debate. What are we really made of? Recently I got the answer to that. It’s both.
2. Not knowing your past.
Any adoptee in a closed adoption can tell you that their past started the day they were born. There is no back story on why they are who they are. Sometimes my adoptive parents would tell their story as if it were my own, often even forgetting that it wasn’t. Now that I am in reunion I know my family’s history, and therefore my past. You can live your whole life without knowing it, but it can be easier to know where you are going if you know where you’ve been.
3. You don’t recognize people you should.
When you reunite with your birth family for the first time, you should know who they are, or at least you were supposed to. Those are your people. You should have always been with them. That reunion mentally took me to that hospital room in the movies. You should know them, but you don’t. How many times in your life have you passed by them and had no idea? The reunion feels a bit like you are a deer caught in a car’s headlights. I think my reunion looked a lot more graceful than that, but that’s what it felt like.
I don’t mean to paint any of these things as good or bad. With adoption there is no black and white or right and wrong. It’s just an observation from someone who has lived it. I’m lucky to be in my reunion where things are not awkward, and I no longer feel like I have amnesia.