Living with a History of Adoption

I am so pleased to be able to share this guest post from Meredith about a subject she, I, and many others are passionate about – adoption. I found this a hugely moving and powerful account, being a person who was also adopted. Does it resonate as strongly for you as it did for me? Perhaps you are a parent who adopted?


I am 34 and I still struggle with my adoption. I don’t actively think about it every day, but it stands in the shadows of every move I make and every word I say. Even my cells have a conscious awareness that I, their collective, have been so permanently wounded.

I thought I would be okay because I wanted to be okay at some finite point in time in my life. I had been carrying around this burden and my hearts burning desire was to get rid of it; to earn it away with success, to drive it away from my mind with a better family in adulthood, to evolve it out of my being. All of those things have not addressed the wounds and have not made them go away.

I thought that perhaps, reuniting with my biological family would help seal the wound like a skin-graft. But, it was more of a Cinderella story. I was in the right place at the right time that I got a free trip to Korea. The adoption agency got back to me too quickly. It was too easy to set up the reunion meeting. The things pointing to my life being changed turned into only an event in time.

I met my family in secret. In my mind, I knew it was just a cultural constraint. But in my heart, I felt crushed as a nonentity in my own birth country. I felt shame that I was connected to a shameful period of my mother’s life. My own mother adopted a son who was living in her house as her child. It’s hard for me to write about this as I haven’t even given myself the permission or time to let this sink in. It is just more pain to let in. I have enough pain already.

I was so disturbed by my abandonment that I swore that I wouldn’t adopt. That it would be too unbearable for me to have my own wounds from adoption and be expected to tend to another adopted child’s wounds. I figured I’d be less able to give another adopted person what I so deeply desired as a child from my own experience.

I guess a part of me knew that parenting the adopted child is an exhausting and no-win situation. It is a give-give-
give situation with no end to the anxiety and doubt that you (the parent) are really there for the long haul and that what you are doing is really a thing that is called “love.”

I thought having my own child would make “it” go away. As if it would be my biological vaccination to the pain of being disowned by my genetic family. It was only a temporary high and relief. But as time went on, and she got older, I found that my beloved daughter triggered such deep feelings in me that I was afraid that I’d either harm her emotionally or I’d crumble under the weight of my own sadness and pain.

A new level of pain came recently with the birth of my second and last child. I realized that I would end my life never having a mother there for the birth of my child. I would never have my mother help me raise my child; spoil my child; kidnap my child for a weekend of fun; celebrate my child’s milestones. None of that was part of my past, and now, it would not be a part of my future. It also deepened my sorrow over being estranged with my adoptive mother. That she too, would not be there in my biological mother’s place, and filling the role of grandparent for my precious, innocent children.

I never could have grasped what a momentous decision I was making when I cut ties with my adoptive family. I knew it was the right thing to do for me. But I didn’t have my head screwed on right and I was in denial that it would be a clean cut. I thought it was my turn to abandon someone—not for no reason, but because they were hurting me. It was a toxic relationship that I had to get away from. But I didn’t figure in that I’d grow as a person; that they’d grow; that at some point in the future, we’d be able to have a healthy relationship.

I made the decision for my children not to have grandparents (from my side) in their life. I gave them a loss that was unfair. I will have to live with that. I will have to listen to the music, as it were, when they realize what I withheld from them. My only solace, is that it is not all on me as I’ve done my periodic due diligence to mend the bridge with my adoptive parents. Too bad, that only after reuniting with my biological family, I realized how much my adoptive family meant to my life – for good and for bad.

And as luck would have it, {remember my vow never to adopt?} I fell in love with a man with two sons. At the time I met the “package,” unbeknown to me, their biological mother was backing out of their life. Within four months of knowing me, their mother disappeared and abandoned them. I had unwittingly stepped into a situation where I was soulfully committed to these boys and I was going to be expected to be a virtual “adoptive mother” to them. My attempt at keeping my adoption in my subconscious was brutally overridden by my love for their father and for them.

I go moment to moment wondering if the adoptive mother life that I’m living is my consequence for turning my back on my adoptive parents or if this was my calling that I was refusing to take from the beginning. I mean, I know from my being abandoned, that I’ve vowed to love people readily, to accept them willing. But I also know that I am, through virtue of being a wounded person, so very susceptible to hurting those that I love. The true question is: do people think my love is worth my level of imperfection?

I have become mature enough to give up trying to wish this scarlet word “adoption” off my soul. I no longer find joy in futility. I’ve decided to use this burden and apply it to a career in social work. I will use it (and God) as my source to minister to other people who are in pain. I want to show others (at least my family) that it is possible to have daily pain and still find meaning this excruciatingly beautiful and precious life.

About the author
Bob Brotchie

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, life coach and creator of Conscious Living by Design™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to clients in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).

11 Comments

  1. Tim

    I read your passionate piece. Let me start with full disclosure. I was not adopted, so I can’t see your own pain. But I did not have a particularly loving or supportive home. I have different pain.

    All I want to do is to pass a thought to you. It isn’t right, wrong, critical, the holy grail. It’s just a thought.

    The media is full of “I was adopted and I must find my birth mother” stories. It makes great television, it sells magazines. It makes news, well, pseudo-news. It glories in the happiness or otherwise that those whose adoptive parents chose to love them find.

    What if, just what if, that media attention, prevalent during all of your life, what if that media coverage has created the inner turmoil that you find?

    • I am happy to provide my response to your observation, Tim.
      I think it is reasonable to consider the effect of exposure to media and other influences, but in all honesty, no!
      That exposure does resonate and can often for me give rise to emotional pain, but that is about all. The sense of enduring emptiness, loss and a lack of true identity rises at those times, for sure.

      I have always been ‘different’, and known this. It wasn’t until it was confirmed, aged 11, for me that I became more accepting of my uniqueness – within my adopted family.

      Decades on and I’m still somewhat ‘lost’ as an identity ‘in full’, recognising myself as partly the conditioning of my life and it’s events (cognitions). The part I cannot reconcile myself entirely with is around whatever I have inherited. I cannot ‘know’ my biological parents; mother having been confirmed as dead before I had a chance to find her – and my father being an ‘unknown’.

      It’s not pervasive in my everyday thoughts; arising only when the media you describe does it’s thing. Long before it became ‘fly-on-the-wall’ material, I had a yearning to ‘know’ and to try and resolve that inner turmoil.

      Thanks for the question, Tim. I do appreciate that.

    • Hi Tim,
      Thank you for considering what I wrote. I have never been asked this before. To be honest, I never compared my story to anyone else that was published in the media. The only way I looked into media was to find community with other adoptees. I really didn’t entertain the possibility or eventuality of meeting my birth family again.

      I just read your disclosure as a lead up to the question. I never planned on choosing my birth mother over my adoptive mother. I was prepared to foster both maternal relationships in my life. It just so happened that I was already at odds with my adoptive family. I don’t want to dishonor them online as they have done many things right with me.

      Additionally, when I met my birth family, I had a flooding realization that my adoptive family was very integral to my identity, more-so than my genetic “family.” They didn’t know me like my adoptive family. My adoptive family had all of my shared memories. I didn’t add this to my original post and this could have assuaged your curiosity. Many adoptees have a vast range of experience according to their stories of origin enmeshed with their adoptive experiences.

      I currently only hold “media” connection with my biological family. I maintain a space in my heart and life to reconnect with my adoptive mother as my adoptive father has passed away.

      Again, thank you for your question. I am open to your additional questions.

      Meredith in the USA

  2. Tim

    Forgive the long gap. I have been away, or I would have asked my next question sooner.

    I accept all that you say. Yet I want to ask about it in order to learn. Again this is not critical, it is just my desire to know more. You have known that you are different. Are you able to define the way ‘different’ felt for you prior to your knowing you had been adopted?

    There is a back story to my desire to know more here. I have a cousin who was adopted. She had a difficult adoptive mother and a rather useless adoptive father. Her relationship with her adoptive mother deteriorated as she found her birth mother, and as her adoptive mother showed increasing signs of early onset Alzheimers, now fully blown Alzheimers.

    I do not understand why there appeared to be an automatic rejection of the woman who chose to love her in favour of the woman who chose to pass her to another mother. Knowing more about the feeling if difference and anything else you feel able to share will enhance my understanding.

    One could ask why I need it enhanced. I do not. I wish for it.

    • Hi Tim, yes, very content to clarify and share a little further. Thank you for your interest.
      It is, and was primarily on reflection, that I can specify at least some of the aspects around how I appeared to be different from the family who adopted me.
      I was more introverted, less tolerant and prone to angry emotional outbursts to relatively trivial things. I can recall a number of times – and this continues today, how if someone made me ‘jump’ by jumping out at me from behind, I would reactively and protectively strike out! This, I’m fairly certain was due to the awful babyhood I experienced. Neglected – and abandoned a number of times, I can only guess at whatever else happened whilst I was crying and distressed but I have read reports that at times, prolonged times, it involved no-one was coming! I also react poorly to individuals ‘shouting’ in certain environments.
      I can reflect and recognise that my childhood values and beliefs were separate from those of my brothers. My security programming that would allow me to feel safe, loved and nurtured was bereft, despite being in what was for a few years at least, in a safe environment. (Aged years 3 to 8).
      As I grew in childhood, it was clear I had a greater propensity for ‘naughty’ behaviour. Not all the time; I knew how to behave but when I was out ‘playing’ with friends it was noticed how I was often swearing, without anger – for instance!
      These may appear subtle, but when I compare my childhood and adult self with that of my two older siblings, we always have been so very different. This isn’t a result of consistent family values and nurturing, this is from during – and perhaps even before my birth and formative early years.
      Genetic? I think for sure that has played some part, but as I alluded in my last reply, I can only ‘know’ so much from the time before my birth.
      I hope that sheds a little more light, at least from my perspective.

      • Tim

        That sounds awful. And these periods of neglect were after you had been adopted into an ostensibly loving home? You were treated differently from your (new) siblings?

        I think I want to go and chastise your adoptive parents if that is so.

        My wife and I were infertile and had considered adopting. As we were discussing it the infertility treatment worked, albeit just the once. But our view was that a child we adopted would know the precise treatment of a child born to us, no more and no less.

        Do you feel, had you been shown that care, treatment, call it what you will, that your knowledge that you were somehow different would have been, well, different?

        • No Tim, I don’t. I should clarify that I wasn’t necessarily treated differently, just that the family broke-down, which in itself something of an indictment! I remain certain that if the family unit remained ‘stable’, I would still have been able to recognise significant differences in my psyche.

          • Tim

            Setting aside the adoption issue and the feeling of difference, children are to be loved, cherished, nurtured , respected and given trust and space to grow.

            I know that does not help you and that only you can make things better for you. I just wanted to make that statement.

  3. Ryan Biddulph

    Meredith, thanks so much for sharing with us. Despite your pain and suffering experienced, you continue to share remarkably clear, heart-felt insights. I love your style my friend 😉

Comments are closed.

Living with a History of Adoption

by Bob Brotchie time to read: 5 min