Recap from the previous post!
…It would take joining a Facebook group for people adopted from Colombia, numerous hours of reading about the industry that is adoption, re-reading my own adoption documents countless times, and watching an episode of a show on Netflix dealing with the dark side of adoption, to throw me into the process of coming out of the fog, and opening the lid to Pandora’s box…
Around the same time as I decided to order the DNA-test and possibly start searching for my first family, it hit me to look for groups on facebook for people who are adopted from Colombia, like me. I found a few, requested to join one, was accepted in and was struck right away by how many members it had. In this one group called “Adopted from Colombia”, there were about 1500 members. 1500 fellow adoptees, from Colombia, in one group! In the matter of a second, I went from being alone in my adoption experience, which I was still not comfortable talking about, to being part of a group of 1500 people, adopted from the same country as I. I read stories of people searching for family, I read posts about people having found their family, I read about things I had never heard about. Terms like trauma and loss were mentioned frequently. People were talking about adoption in negative terms, with negative consequences, using terms like corruption, falsification, and victims (the adoptees being the victims in the situation). At first, I couldn’t relate. I rejected the idea of adoption being an industry filled with corruption. I was reluctant to hear about adoption being possible only after trauma in the form of separation. I was not ready to hear about the lies, the falsification, nor me possibly being a victim of all of it.
I started looking up information. I started to talk to the people in the group. The more I read, the more stories I heard of people finding their first families – only to find out that they were not given up for adoption willingly by their first mothers – the more difficult it became to deny that my adoption documents might be telling the truth, and they might be just as well be a lie. Colombia in the mid-eighties was a country filled with unrest, filled with violence, and filled with corruption. Without going into a history lesson, Colombia at the time that I was born, and adopted, was the country of Pablo Escobar, the Guerillas and the Paramilitaries. In the show Narcos, there is a scene where the cops storm a house and there is a shootout between some criminals and the cops. Everyone in the house is shot dead, and when the cops enter the house afterward, they find a baby sitting in the middle of one of the rooms. Seeing that image, of that baby, alone because the parents are shot dead instantly made me think of myself. Was that my story?
As I heard more and more stories of fellow adoptees reuniting with their first family, finding out they were always wanted, loved and longed for, that their adoption was never supposed to have happened, and did so only because a few people made a lot of money on making babies available for couples abroad who wanted to adopt, thinking they would be adopting a baby that needed a home, not a baby that was stolen from his or her mother, the fog started to lift. I started understanding the terms that were being used in the discussion among adoptees. I started to see the other two sides of adoption, that don’t talk about adoption as a win-win, or as a couple wanting a baby and a baby needing a home, as being the unselfish thing for a family to do. These are the two sides that few even know exist. One of these you can call the dark side of adoption. It is made up of the means that are used to make babies available for adoption, such as telling mothers their baby was stillborn, kidnapping of children, falsifying paperwork, changing names, dates, and locations to hide tracks, and the list goes on and on. I have heard so many stories in the past year of fellow adoptees who have found their family, who have been reunited, and who are told by their first mother and family that they have been loved, missed and wanted this whole time. Their families have been searching for them. It is beautiful to see a family reunite, and it is heartbreaking to think they were not supposed to have been separated in the first place. The other is the side of the adoptees themselves. The questions, emotions, mixed messages, contradicting feelings and inner struggles that we live with from as far back as we can remember. This struggle is felt by adoptees with a good experience and a bad experience, alike.
In my own case, I grew up never feeling fully connected with my family. I would feel a stronger connection to my friends, and I would think to myself that family is who you chose. Because I guess in a way, that was what had happened to me, but not by my own choice. My parents were there for me and did the best they knew how to, but I never let them in all the way, or even at all really. I was compliant in that I did pretty much everything to be the good daughter in their eyes, and I was defiant in that I always held them at a distance. I am realizing, as I am understanding my life as an adoptee better, that I must have done that as a self-defense mechanism. The fewer people I let in all the way, the fewer people would be able to leave me, disappoint me, hurt me or reject me. I rejected them or would hold them at a distance first, not giving them the chance to do what my (first)family had done to me. My adoptive parents were very much included in this rejection of mine. Not understanding or knowing where that came from caused me to feel extremely guilty about not being close to them. There was an internal struggle of pushing and pulling, blaming myself for my thoughts and feelings, and blaming them for my thoughts and feelings. Reading “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Verrier, and understanding the situation better, I can look back and understand that in my mind they would be forever linked to whatever trauma I had been through before them. My life didn’t start with them and logically I knew they had nothing to do with what had happened before the day they adopted me, but they were the only thing tangible I could attach my feelings to, so I did. And I built up a wall. A wall for my own protection against rejection. I think a lot of adoptees do that. It’s not because we doubt our adoptive parents love, it’s not because we don’t want or need that love. On the contrary, we probably need more love, more care, more nurturing and more security than most. And as long as we don’t feel a hundred percent sure that the love and care that we need to feel safe is fully there, unconditionally and forever, the wall stays up. (There will be another post coming up on how to help an adoptee bring that wall down.) Now, try to imagine what that does to a child, to feel disconnected, want love, not being able to accept the love given, taking a distance and not knowing how to reach out – to her own family. To the only people, she knows as being her family. Those are big emotions to deal with as a child and adult alike. And they are very much part of my own, and many of my fellow adoptees’ life. And I consider myself having had a good childhood, where I never perceived adoption as a negative thing. Contradiction is a key feature for most, if not all of us.
These are all things that I have realized after coming out of the fog. What really caused me to step out of the fog was an episode of the show “The Traffickers”, on Netflix. The episode is called “the Dark Side of Adoption”. One story in the episode is that of a father in Uganda, who takes his children to an orphanage because they are poor and so he thinks it will be better for the children to stay at the orphanage for a while. He is told by the director of this orphanage that his children can go stay with a family in Italy, who will care for them, make it possible for them to go to school and get a chance at a better life. He is told that they will be able to return to him after a few years, that it will be temporarily. He is not informed that when he signs the papers, he is signing away his rights as their parent. That with his signature, the children are no longer his. He realizes too late, and throughout the episode, the reporter and her team take part in the heartbreaking task of trying to track the children down and get them back home, to their parents and family. At one point they are as close to them as to be on the other side of the wall surrounding the house that they are in, but the father is not let in to see his children. He no longer has the legal right to see his own children. And that is part of the dark side of adoption. The children who have a family, but are taken away from that family, to be placed in a new family, because there is money to be made in the process. Seeing that episode, realizing that this happened in Colombia, in China, in Uganda, and many many more countries around the world, the fog lifted and I saw adoption in a new light. I suddenly understood what people were referring to when talking about trauma when talking about the victim being the adoptee, and when talking about the adoptees’ voices needing to be heard, and the narrative needing to be changed. Having been in the denial phase of the grieving process, I now stepped into the anger phase.
Frustrated with the lack of information in my documents, I felt angry at the authorities in Colombia for not bothering to include such basic information as names of the people who I was with as a baby. What was the name of the woman who handed me over to the police? What was the name of the police officer who took me in? What was the name of the director of the orphanage? What was the name of the woman who fostered me for a while? All nameless ghosts, all a black hole. And no way to know if any of it was even true or not. Hearing about adoptees from Chile in Sweden uniting to demand that Adoptionscentrum (the Swedish adoption agency that also handled my adoption from Colombia to Sweden), be investigated for having possibly known about corruption being involved in cases of adoption from Chile, but still went along and facilitated them, added to my anger and frustration. I found refuge in the group of adoptees on facebook, my fellow Colombian adoptees. I found refuge in being able to voice my thoughts in a space full of people who not only accepted what I said and felt but who understood, related to, and were able to validate what I was going through because many of them had gone been through it themselves. I found refuge in writing. Writing about my emotions as I was going through them. I moved on from being angry to feeling sad and hopeless. I had nightmares about babies being left alone. I was becoming consumed by the emotional rollercoaster of coming out of the fog. This was what I had referred to when saying I was scared to start digging into my adoption story. This was what I had feared when opening the lid to Pandora’s Box. The key was found, the lid was swinging open and at this point, there was no turning back. You can’t go back into the fog once you’re out. Ask any adoptee who has been through the process and experience of having the fog lifted from in front of them, and they will probably tell you they have considered and even wished for it to be possible. At 33 years old, I now had an entire lifetime of bottled up, buried deep down inside feelings of hurt, loss, trauma, rejection, and abandonment to deal with, all coming out at once. What had started as an “I will take it step-by-step and slowly see where this goes”-idea, had quickly turned into an all-encompassing emotional rollercoaster of thoughts, impressions, aha-moments, and feelings coming at me, all at once. I had no option but to feel it, but to process it, but to accept it.
Connecting with genetic relatives through the results of the DNA-test I took, understanding that I had the right to claim Colombia as my home-country even though I had no memories of it, and meeting fellow Colombian adoptees in person (two of them cousins I found through the DNA-test), is what kept me afloat, and let me see that there was a light of the end of the tunnel… Next, I will share with you what meeting biological family for the first time meant to me, what being able to call someone my cousin was like, and how I moved forward in the grieving process from anger and sadness, towards acceptance…
I thank you from the bottom of my heart, for spending this time with me, reading my story.
If you would like to share your story, I would love to connect with you and help you share it here alongside mine.
Own your story, share your story, write your story.
All my love to all of you.
– Amanda Medina
PS. We are all in this together!