I had a really hard time finding a title for this post. It was truly quite the challenge! In fact the evolution of this post was immense. I did not realize that it was going to open a whole world of confusion & displacement for me.
There are many, many articles on the web about interracial adoption. How it affects the child when they are not the same race as the adoptive parents. I can only imagine how they feel being a different skin color than the race of the family that adopted them. I read quite a few of these articles, but in my searching I realized that there is however very little if nothing on the long lasting effects of physical differences in adoption as a whole aside from the interracial adoptions.
This was very surprising to me & honestly I was shocked at why this is not a topic of research.
I clearly cannot be alone in this as an adoptive child. I did not look like my immediate adoptive family & I had an extremely hard time seeing the similarities from my birth family. I honestly still struggle with both sides of this.
I originally wrote this post with just the intention of talking about me & my plight through finding my acceptance on both levels of adoption & biological resemblance. But it clearly has taken me to another direction in the questions of:
Why is there not more about the impacts of adoption? & How is it that I am still affected by this?
I have always struggled with the importance of resemblance or belonging. It was an internal battle for me. I on one hand knew & was told I did not look like my adoptive parents & siblings, & then on the other hand I am told that I look very close to my biological maternal family. 18 years of not looking like anyone & then a flip of the switch & I looked like someone.
How does anyone cope with that?
I certainly did not cope well. The fallout of this has plagued me for the last 43 years.
People throughout my younger years would tell me I look like my adoptive parents. But I knew that wasn't true. My parents were always quick to correct them ‘she is adopted’ & it was usually followed with a chuckle after like it was something to laugh at. That answer would just tell me that I didn't belong to them. This is the world of adoptive children. I may have similar coloring to my adoptive paternal family, but I do not look like them in many other facets.
It came to the point where I just knew that I had to as a child correct the person who made the comparison.
Surprisingly enough I really had no idea until researching, how it all made me feel.
My looks were a joke?
My self esteem was a laugh?
I did not belong in their world & struggled.
I know that both sides of my adoptive family embraced that I was adopted. I did not feel rejection from any of them. But they were also quick to point out my similarities & differences. My Grandmother (adoptive paternal) said to me once, that I look more like one of the biological babies in the family than some of the biological ones do. I was not offended as some people may be because I was desperate to belong & I did revel in that comment as it made me feel like I actually belonged to this tribe. I strived to physically & emotionally belong to this family extended & immediate. But now looking back on that comment, what was she really trying to say? That being adopted with the green eyes & blonde hair meant I sort of belonged?? I am sure my Grandmother wasn't heartless in her comment, but today it makes me realize that I was always ‘not theirs’.
I could go on with a whole slew full of medical & different types of terminologies but I think it is imperative that people know, we all just want to physically belong to anyone. Resemblance is a factor in anyone's world.
When I was very little (as I have mentioned before) I thought everyone was adopted. All the children of the world did not come physically from their parents. My adoptive parents would occasionally say that we were ‘picked’ for them & why wouldn't I think the same for all of my friends & their parents. Ahh the mind of a child, but of course I eventually realized that this was not the case & I looked in wonderment and awe of how these families were created, looked, & loved. One of the largest hurdles for me, basically until my own children were toddlers was seeing the resemblance in others in relation to me or even others. It even saddened me to see other individual families' physical ties. It may have been because I never looked like anyone or that I searched for similarities in others but it was just something I was always aware of.
My adoptive parents were always very quick to point out things about me that were NOT them. Like I have an exceptionally long tongue, or that I have green eyes (everyone else's were blue or brown). I don't know if they were trying to make us feel special or if it was for us to be told we do not belong to them, but regardless of their meaning, I took it to heart. It was those moments that wore on me that my outlook on all of my features eventually changed on many levels.
My obsession was so clouded over all of this I eventually started to not see similarities in anyone. My teen years & early 20’s I could not see the similarities between a parents baby picture & their child's baby picture. I would of course lie & say yes, I can see it. But honestly there was nothing. I could not match the noses, or the eyes, or the shape of the forehead. I just could NOT see it.
I was so blind to it from my own personal search for it.
As an adoptive kid & I know I am not alone (especially in the closed adoption world) I made up all sorts of crazy shit in my mind. In fact I kinda still do this.
One of them when I was a child was that I dreamt that my birth-mother would be amazing, super pretty, famous, rich & everyone wanted to be her. She was not a ‘normal’ person in society in my kid like mind. An unrealistic childhood fantasy …. Maybe? But because I wanted to belong & look like someone & feel like that person was like me in personality, I made a connection to someone who was not anyone I actually knew. In fact I would never know this person. But I was convinced that she was my birth-mom.
It was Madonna. I mean I know we don’t look that much alike. But she had brown hair (in the 80’s), she was a person who held her own court. She followed her own beating path. She basically checked off all my boxes... I wanted soooooo very much to be hers. Of course my boxes of criteria were not realistic & as I got older the realism kicked in that she was not my birth mother. There was no resemblance! But the mind of a child you can convince yourself of anything & yes people she WAS my at that point my Birth-Mother.....
Now as an adult I convince myself on other platforms other than physical features. Fallout from the adoptive world. I have no idea about my biological paternal side of the family & what I do know is very very little. As an adoptive child the Doctor office is always the most uncomfortable place to be….
What is your family's medical history?
My mother would always answer; ‘We don't know she is adopted.’ I now answer; ‘I can find out on my maternal side but the paternal side I am unclear as I am adopted.’ But that all leads into the imagination! I can diagnose myself with anything as I just don’t know. So from one world of uncertainty to another, a child's dreams & an adults dread.
This brings me to the opposite point.
I never looked like anyone.
I made up connections that I was desperate for.
I didn't belong in my adoptive family with the physical traits or in personality I had.
But I did somewhere!
I just didn't realize when that time would come I wouldn't know how to embrace the other side of it all.
I was 18 when I met my birth Grandmother (among some other family members) & they (not intentionally) laid the 'you look like' on really thick! I was completely overwhelmed. Again no fault to them as they didn't realize the world & struggles I grew up in, but it was really hard to handle. All of my life up to that point I looked like no one & all of a sudden I looked like my birth-mother & my aunts & uncles & half sister & half brother & on & on.
I just had no idea how to handle the exact opposite that I had experienced for 18 years. I was very quick to flip to the other side from my adoptive family experience. I did not want to look like anyone. It was almost like I had to dismay them from putting me in a category of similarities between us.
From one extreme to the other.
This went on for me for years.
They would say you look like your birth-mother & I wouldn't see it.
They would say I smile the same as my aunt & I wouldn't see it.
This is not in any way their fault or their issue. I realize that this is all me & I had to find a way to accept it & move forward.
It is 100% a self esteem & self image issue. I know this now, after many years of having both sides said at the same time.
My question is why isn't there more out there for us adopted kids?
Why couldn't I accept the lack of similarities between the adoptive side?
Why did I struggle with the resemblance with the biological side?
There have been other moments that I realized that I was broken when it came to accepting my visual looks of belonging.
I had for years (not so much anymore) been told that I resemble Emma Stone. There was a period of time when it happened so very often almost every month. Now, let's be clear on a few things about this.
1: I never saw the similarities between Emma Stone & me except for one picture. However many people had to tell me that we looked alike & I found it very overwhelming.
2: Emma Stone looks like me, not the other way around. I am older so in a sense she stole my look. Again, not that I see it.
3: Because this happened so often it got to the point I would say to my spouse; 'Do these people think they are having an original thought?’ Seriously though, all these people have to tell me & they of course have no clue that I struggle with similarities so it wore on me like no one knew.
& 4: this too; along with my birth family physical a likeness bothered me.
So desperate to belong & to look like someone but sooo determined not to look like or belong to anyone......
Things changed over the years. I have accepted that I do not look like (nor will I ever) my adoptive family. I have also come to realize that my birth family sees a beauty in me & therefore they make the comparison to themselves. I may not have the confidence to see it as they do, but I have accepted their views.
Most of this personal growth came from having my own children.
My daughter is very, very close to resembling me. We have often got the ‘are you sisters?’.
My oldest son, despite his height, is again very similar to me & my daughter; & my youngest may not look like me at all, but he does look identical to his father.
I see them compare their hands, feet, eyes, hair, height, likes, dislikes & their differences. The variation between my children & me is that they know they are uniquely made but belong to me. Their hands, their eyes, their smile, their hair, it all came from one of us. They know they were made to fit right into this ‘our’ world.
I do still struggle often with being told that I look like my birth family or that there are attributes that we share. It may be that I do not like that type of attention on me, or maybe because I just accepted that I was one of a kind. I am not sure…. But growth comes all through life & I am still trying to flourish & accept. Not too long ago birth-cousin pointed out that we scrunch our noses the same. I saw it this time unlike times in the past.
It is hard enough to put it out there in words about the struggles with being adopted & the not so pleasant journey I had. It is difficult to tell the world that I struggled with my adoptive world. It has been a horrible true sense of not resembling anyone & trying to find it. I know & want to mention that not all adoption stories are close to mine & in fact many have a wonderful tale to tell. I celebrate those stories as they are what I wish & hope for with all adopted children.
However, it is also imperative that there is more out there in the trauma that adoptive children have to go through.
Why can't we talk about the ones where rejection, & turmoil happen?
Why isn't there any of these tales online for us to read & realize that many adoption stories do not end well?
It will be for another post on another day, but I have been estranged from my adoptive parents for over 9 years. I want to say that they likely did the best they could in the circumstances of their upbringing. Everything comes from a cycle & they learned from the generation before them, but this does not justify their actions towards me. I did not belong to them & as a result we no longer speak.
We all want a sense of belonging even if we search for our individuality. Being adopted or not is something that we all share in this. We all want to look like someone & want to know where our eye color comes from.
As an adoptee I have felt rejection at its finest. May it be from the adoptive parents, the paternal biological man who created me or others. I do know that I have to accept & move on from this. It will always be something that I will desire; acceptance. The acceptance of where I came from & the people who were supposed to love me & the similarities we share.
Healing has taken a long time & I am not quite there yet but it has given me a chance to learn to accept me, other people in my world, comparisons that I crave for & that I am not alone in any facet of my life.
I just want everyone to realize that it is important to grow as individuals & society. There always has to be a negative view of life experiences. Today I learned more than I knew yesterday & I know that the more we are educated in adoption the better it can be for the future generations..
As humans we all want to be connected to others. The personal bond between families is imperative, & most of all we need to talk about the fall out of adoption stories. There needs to be more about these children regardless of the outcomes. Adoption has to be addressed in all aspects so all children do not have to struggle with the challenges that come with it.
I look like them, I resemble no one & I will always be not fully part of either.