FELLOW ADOPTEE YENNIFER DALLMANN VILLA SHARES WITH YOU, HER ADOPTION STORY IN HER OWN WORDS. WHERE SHE WAS TOLD THERE WAS NO FAMILY, AND WHERE SHE GREW UP THINKING SHE DID NOT KNOW THE CONNECTION OF FAMILY, SHE FOUND THAT NOT ONLY DID SHE HAVE A FAMILY, BUT SHE DID KNOW THE BOND AND CONNECTION. IT WAS ALWAYS THERE, WAITING FOR HER TO RETURN, WAITING FOR HER TO FIND HER WAY BACK HOME…
entering the full circle
I was dancing in the street where I was born. It was New Years Eves and five weeks earlier I knew nothing about where I was from. I knew nothing about my family. The insanity of this moment made my head spin. I drank every Guaro, every Run I was offered, grabbed the bottle and made my family drink with me. My head kept spinning. I was happy, I was blessed, I could not believe what was happening to me. The neighbors neither. We children walked around telling one neighbor after another that I am the sister of my brother, the daughter of my mother. The woman that gave birth to me, in the house down the street, on the first floor, behind that window we can see. They all know my brother, they all remember my mother. And we enjoyed their look on the face, like seeing a ghost. They were in disbelieve and so was I. They kept looking from my brother to me and back and again. They said my mother’s name. It did not get old. No matter how often we played this game.
I grew up in Germany, in the most typical German family: Father a policeman, mother a stay at home wife with a gardening lot. And now I was dancing in the most typical Colombian barrio. With rumba in front of every house, music, fire burning, people dancing salsa, covered in orange light and motos sneaking their ways through the celebration. My adoption documents stated my mother was a drug addict, with only half a name. My paper of abandonment said: “From early on, Yennifer never knew what family was.” My mother trying, but losing her battle to care for me, did not count as family. I had no one on my team. Abandoned. So they changed my birthday to make me younger, they erased my first name Leydi an made me fit my parents’ request for a daughter. „But a white one, please. No N-child, no mix. White, blond, cute.“ Lucky me. I got what I have never known: family.
Except I have known family.
Except a mother trying does count as family.
Except I remember waiting in my crib for my mother to come back to me.
Except I remember giving up waiting on her and going with the wrong family.
Except, my abuela* wanted to get me from the orphanage but was denied access.
Except my abuela praying 10.585 nights for me to come back to them.
Except in my dreams, I heard a voice telling me, that I need to remember who I am.
Except I had a sister that wrote me a letter, when she was 8 years old, that never arrived.
Except I yearned my lost big brother who died even before I was born.
Except I prayed every night to not die myself before I could find my way home.
I had no one on my team.
Except my brothers’ grandmother allowing my birth in her home, 14 years before my baby brother was even born.
Except for the neighbors’ sister, who breastfed me, when my mother had no milk.
Except for the aunt of my brother, who gifted me her oldest sons clothes, when I had nothing but my skin.
Except not only my mother who tried but the whole street who decided to help me.
I was dancing in the street where I was born. 5 weeks earlier I knew nothing about where I was from and now I was not only reconnected with my abuela, sister and a baby brother but also offered family by seven tias* and tios*, another grandmother and 6 primas* and primos* I was welcomed back as warm as I was once clothed by them. New Year’s Eve and I was back where my life started, surrounded by those who have witnessed my birth. We celebrated for two days. And when I came home I wrote:
You came home, running late
With sand still covering your shoes
You feel your cousins arms around your chest
You came home running late
You forgot your way, turned around when no one was left
You found home, it was late
Orange darkness on your street
Your eyes cringed to remember the vagueness of the schemes
You are home, you are safe
Your head against his heart
For you the first time you can rest”
Yennifer Dallmann Villa,
born in Colombia
adopted to Germany
Yennifer is a photographer, designer, and human rights, activist.
You can find and follow her work on her website: http://yvilla.de/
and on instagram @ yvilla_cologne
She is the creating force behind the project “No Mother No Child”, in which she traveled to Colombia photographing the mothers in Colombia who have lost their children. You can find and follow her and No Mother No Child on facebook: www.facebook.com/NoMotherNoChild
If there is one thing that most, if not all, adoptees can relate and attest to, I think it is the constant presence of contradiction. Our lives are made up of this, but also that, usually on opposite sides. Living in this contradiction is challenging. Challenging to feel comfortable with and challenging to move past (if that is even possible).
I was born in Colombia. When I was a year and a half I was adopted and moved to Sweden. My life before being adopted is a black hole. The information is vague at best, with no real details to hang on to. I have no memory of not being adopted. I have no memory of any other parents than the ones who adopted me. I have no memory of a time before I had an adoptive brother, also from Colombia.
I grew up not fully knowing my adoption story. My parents would have been willing to share any little information they had if I would have wanted to know, but I didn’t. I was better off not knowing, it was all in the past anyway, as far as I was concerned. I would tell anyone who asked that I felt just fine about being adopted, that I was grateful that my parents had been able to make it so normal, and that I was an example of an adoption success story. What I meant by success story was that adoption, as far as I could tell, did not affect me negatively in any way. It was just a fact. I was adopted. Nothing more, nothing less. And I had no interest in doing a DNA test to find out anything more.
With the introduction of DNA testing to the general market, my husband would ask me if I wanted to do it, but my answer was always no. While I did want to visit Colombia to get to know the culture, the people and the country in general, I was not interested in searching for anyone potentially related to me. In my eyes, at the time, the woman who had given birth to me was more a concept than an actual person, and I certainly did not think of her as a mother to me.
I had a brother who I got along with pretty well (until early teenage years). I loved the house we lived in, the backyard I played in, the school I went to and the free-time I had playing with my friends. I never thought of Colombia as my home country, I never thought of myself as having another family, let alone a biological one. I did not feel abandoned. I did not have a negative outlook on myself or my life in relation to having been adopted, whatsoever. I could go on and on about how great my life as an adoptee was, and how little I thought being adopted had affected me, and how proud I felt of being adopted, and it was all true. Every word. In the moment.
I can remember things changing in regards to how I looked at my family and my part in it when I was around 9 years old. As my view changed, new feelings emerged, that I had a hard time making sense of. Even in this positive adoptee life of mine, I realized there was an underlying feeling of guilt that contradicted these feelings of pride. Feelings of guilt in a way that a child should not have to feel. I started questioning my relationships. I felt disconnected from the only family I had, which made me think something was wrong with me. Knowing that there were biological family relatives of mine out there somewhere, who I did not know, had no memory of or would probably never know, made me feel like something was missing. But I wouldn’t allow myself to go there. I had a good home and to somehow shatter my parents dream of a “happy family” was more than I could handle.
I could not wrap my head around where all those mixed emotions came from, so I stuffed them away. I kept quiet. I kept it to myself. Buried deep. In doing so, I hid part of myself.
Now, as a grown woman with a new insight into my own experience, I recognize that the “everything is beautiful” part of my story was indeed a defense mechanism, protecting me from the underlying trauma of having been separated from my first mother, from my culture, language, and place of birth. I didn’t even realize until recently, the amount of denial I was living within my life. I had re-defined my own reality and perceptions to protect myself from disappointment, feelings of rejection and abandonment and all the other contradicting feelings I was experiencing…
Confidence and insecurity
Social/outgoing and quiet/introverted
Needing to be around people and wanting to be by myself
Mature and yet childish
Openly happy and silently hurting
Feeling happy in my life, and always feeling something was missing.
Feeling like I can fit in anywhere, yet don’t belong fully anywhere.
To not wish my adoption away, but also always wonder what the alternative would have looked like.
To look myself in the mirror and not know who I really am.
I finally know I’m not alone. These are struggles I share with so many of my fellow adoptees.
The feelings of contradiction that I struggled with would not have been such a problem had they been accepted, acknowledged and validated. It is a big part of who we are, as adoptees. By feeling the need to shut our feelings out, to hide them or to keep them to ourselves, or to think we need to protect the feelings of those around us, is not a healthy way to live. We need to be able to explore these feelings in a healthy way in order to come to terms and work through them. In order to do so, especially as children, we need the support of the people around us, mainly our (adoptive) parents.
In the last year and a half, since I decided to dig up these feelings and revisit my entire adoption story and what it has meant to me, I have realized that had my parents had the right support and known about the things that I (an adoptee) might experience, they would have made sure to connect with me more, and would have made sure to open a door of communication with me. They would have known not to mistake my distance for confidence or rejection for independence. I would have known where the mixed emotions came from, and not felt guilty about them. I would have known that not opening the door for communication with me was because my parents simply didn’t know how to. I would have known that my parents did the best they knew how to, and I would not have resented them. I would have known that some, if not all, of my brother’s problematic behavior, had everything to do with being separated and abandoned, and then adopted.
Ironically enough, by not trying to be the “perfect family,” the family with strong bonds, the family that did things together and the family who enjoyed each other’s company, I think my life as an adoptee might have had a chance at lessening the contradictions and expectations, to replace them with peace of mind and understanding, for myself, my brother and for my adoptive parents.
It all comes down to information and support for everyone involved in the adoption triad.
I now have children of my own and have experienced, for the first time, what it is like to have biological relatives. As such, curiosity about my own background started growing in me. I have since done a DNA-test, connected with a few distant cousins and embarked on a healing journey.
Today, I am committed to speaking my truth and spreading information that helps to raise the adoptee’s voice. I do not oppose adoption per se but advocate family preservation. What I do wish to see happen, and I share this view with many of my fellow adoptees, is for people to be open to our side of the story. Especially prospective adoptive parents. What we have to say is not all good but embracing the full truth of what we have to share about our experiences and our lives is helpful in understanding an adopted child, and being able to be the parent that child needs.
I wrote this to be featured on the blog of RG Adoption Consulting Agency, because I believe that I can work to change many aspects of the adoption process, domestically and transnationally, and while I personally advocate family preservation first and foremost I believe I can also use my voice to help fellow adoptees, mainly the little ones who don’t have one yet, current and prospective, by sharing my story, my experience and my truth with a group who really needs to hear adult adoptee voices; the adoptive parents…
Original post: Contradiction in the Life of an Adoptee
Originally published on dearadoption.com
Dear Adoption, There is Always Something Missing
I am Colombian.
I am Swedish.
I am almost American.
I can’t say that I’m Colombian without an explanation.
I can’t say that I’m Swedish without an explanation.
I can’t say that I’m American yet.
So what am I?
Where do I belong?
Colombia is my home, biologically.
Sweden is my background, culturally.
America is my life, by choice.
In my heart and soul I know I belong in Colombia.
Es mi tierra.
But I don’t feel the right to claim it.
I never lived there.
I didn’t grow up there.
I was born there.
I was abandoned there.
I was removed from there.
Sweden welcomed me.
Sweden took my in as one of its own, and cared for and nurtured me.
It’s what I know.
I was raised there, learned traditions, made childhood friendships there.
It’s my mother tongue because it’s the language I first spoke.
But I don’t feel tied to Sweden in any way, not even by family.
America is where I found love.
America is where I chose to live.
It’s where I’ve become adult.
It’s where I’ve built a family.
It’s where I’ve made a life.
It’s where my home has come to be.
I’m made up of all three combined.
I wish I could say
Instead I feel like by claiming Colombian I run the risk of being put to the test.
Instead I feel that by claiming Swedish I am not being true to myself.
And I simply can’t claim American yet.
I’m a Swedish Colombian whose home is America.
I’m a Colombian Suede whose home is America.
I’m partially all three.
I’m none fully.
Recently the pull of my origin is getting stronger.
I know the day will come when I return.
I can sense the feeling of coming home.
One day I will feel that I belong, that I have the right to claim my homeland, that I can leave the explanations out and simply say:
– Soy colombiana”
Original post: Dear Adoption, There is Always Something Missing
This was one of the hardest for me to share so far. I have been wanting to post if for some time, but have changed my mind last second every time. I am sharing it today to let fellow adoptees who might be struggling with the same kind of guilt know, that you are not alone…
We have to be able to speak our truth. As hard as it is for us adoptees to share, and as hard as it is for non-adoptees to hear, it is the only way change will happen, and it is the only way it will get better for those coming after us…
Being adopted doesn’t necessarily mean that I was saved.
It doesn’t matter how great of a life I had after, the fact remains that as a baby I was abandoned, by anyone, and everyone who knew that I existed.
Think about that for a second.
That realization hurts.
It’s a logical emotion in response to that knowledge.
There’s no telling me to get over it.
There’s no telling me I’m wrong for feeling this way.
The life I have had after doesn’t make up for feelings around that abandonment.
Because no matter what, being adopted hasn’t been an easy ride.
It’s been filled with guilt.
Guilt for feeling that when things were tough at home, you could actually have had a different family.
If only this other, wonderful, loving, stable couple who would have been filled with love, attention, affection, and harmony would have adopted you instead.
Then you would have grown up happy and not having to hear your parents fight.
The parents that adopted you, the parents who chose to fly to the other side of the world to bring you home, and now they are fighting, screaming at each other, not considering for one second what that does to you to have to hear that.
And because you weren’t born by the mother who is screaming at your father, and because you weren’t conceived by the father who is ignoring your mother, now you are awake at night wishing another family would’ve been the one to adopt you.
And for that, you feel guilty.
Although none of it is your fault.
You were left.
You were abandoned.
Yet you are supposed to fulfill the role of daughter to a couple who can’t stand one another.
And years later, when you start searching for your origin, many years later, long after you have come to terms with how things were growing up, and after you have taken distance from it all by moving halfway across the world, you start realizing that there is a slight chance that your adoption wasn’t even supposed to have happened in the first place.
Now, can you tell me again that I should be grateful?
January 17th, 2018
PS. We are all in this together!
FELLOW ADOPTEE MICHAEL TELLS YOU HIS ADOPTION STORY IN HIS OWN WORDS, WHICH HAS A TWIST THAT HAS HIM GOING THROUGH A PROCESS OF STARTING FROM SCRATCH TO BELONG WHERE HE ALWAYS LIVED AND ALWAYS CALLED HOME…
“My name is Michael Libberton.
I was born William Ortiz Niño n 1976 In Bucaramanga Colombia.
Now, my adoption story like many from Colombia is full of holes and questions.
Is my name William? Is my birthday in February? Why was I put up for adoption? Should I be grateful I was brought to the United States? Should I be angry? Sad?
The story goes like this. My adoptive parents came to Bogota to get me from FANA. What was the price of a child back then? Well for them it was $1000 for the lawyer and 3 suitcases of clothes and diapers. They spent about a week there waiting to take me home. I came in through Miami then to Illinois.
My childhood, from what I remember, was not horrible. Did I have problems? Yes, I did. But I got to experience living on a big land. I had a best friend who lived close to me. I remember more about my life at home there than I do about school. Then we moved to Florida in 1987. Here I have stronger memories of school and than home. I was taken care of. Had food in my belly and a roof over my head. But what was missing?
Well, when we moved to Florida I found the paperwork for my “adoption “, explain later why the quotation marks. I saw I came from Colombia, I saw that my name was William. I saw a baby picture of myself. Of course, I knew I had to be from somewhere else when my whole family was white and I wasn’t. Now I had more questions than answers. From that day forward I wanted to know who my mother was. My birth family. Did I have siblings? I asked questions but they were all went unanswered. Maybe because I was supposed to be grateful that I had a home. I was taken from bad conditions. That, I remember being said to me. Be grateful I was brought here.
Well, I did not think about it more till later in life. Why? Well, I was a teenager, just wanted to like girls and sports at the time. It wasn’t till I had my son that the thoughts kept creeping into my head again. But let me be clear the thought of a birth mother always was in my head. But know I wanted to know where I was from. Movies showed Colombia as a jungle and nothing more. The. New questions arose. Was I born in the jungle? Was my birth family alive? I had to know. I needed to meet her before she passed away.
Fast forward 17 years. After two failed relationships and two wonderful kids, I met my beautiful wife. With her compassion and understanding starting to find answers started to become easier.
I put adopted in quotes because I found out over the last two years my adoption was not completed. Now this made me very disappointed and a bit angry. For 40 years I was in America and thinking I was a citizen and belonged here. As a kid you always belong but when you become an adult and as time changes you see the anger in people towards humans that weren’t born here. Now before I go on I need to say that I am not angry about being in America. Now after my adoptive mother admitted that things were not finished I now have to go through a process like I was never even here. But I never even was in Colombia either.
So where did I belong? In my heart even to today, I belong in America. But to the rest of society and everything going on, there are people who think I don’t belong here and I’m not sure how I would fit into Colombia. But I consider America my home. I consider Colombia my birth home.
It has been a long journey thinking about who my mom is. If I had any siblings. Well, there is a possibility that I might have found them. Or I should say they found me. Pending DNA results but I will tell you that when they found me and the story is very close to mine, that meeting 4 out of 5 sisters and the mother has made me feel on a high. Other than my wife and kids they accepted me. They have embraced me and made me feel truly part of their family. I know a lot of adoptees have not found what they are looking for and I felt that way for years. But no matter what the results turn out to be, now for the first time in my life I know what having a connection in Colombia feels like.
My story still has so many chapters in it and they will surely be good and some bad but now my book of adoption has more pages filled in.
My adoption to me was not the worse thing in the world. Because I am alive today to tell you all this. My path, if I was never adopted will never be known because it never happened. As adoptees, we can never change the past. But we can surely learn and share from it. ”
Born in Colombia
Adopted to the U.S.
TWO DAYS AGO I SHARED PART 1 OF FLORENCIA’S ADOPTION STORY, WRITTEN IN HER OWN WORDS. HERE IS PART 2, IN WHICH FLORENCIA TELLS US ABOUT HER REUNION, THE EMOTIONS THAT SHE WENT THROUGH IN THAT PROCESS AND AT THE END OF IT ALL COMING TO TERMS WITH HER OWN STORY…
“My Adoption Story-Part 2
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always known I was adopted. When I was 24 years old I decided to search for my biological mother. My adoptive mom took care of the paperwork to get my biological mother’s information (in Argentina records have always been open). Once I had my biological mother’s name I began by looking for her in the phone book (in 2004 we still didn’t have the social media resources we have today), and I actually found her in 10 minutes. There were only 10 people with her last name in the phonebook. I called the first one on the list and it was her house. I couldn’t believe it. I got so nervous I hung up. Then I needed several months just to process the fact that I finally knew who and where she was.
Four months went by and I decided to write her a letter where I explained who I am and told her I just wanted to meet her and know who she was. Six months went by and I didn’t hear back from her. So one day, I just couldn’t wait anymore and I decided to call her. I’m not sure where I got the courage to do it, but I did. I called and she answered the phone immediately. When I told her my name she told me at once: “Hello, I got your letter.” And then we just started to talk. She spoke to me just the way you would speak to a stranger, and that was fine for me. She agreed to meet with me so we decided on a day and time. But when the day finally came closer she canceled. I was disappointed. But we rescheduled. And again she canceled on me. This happened three times. I tried to empathize with her and thought she was probably too nervous. So I decided to give her time and space. I waited for some time to go by and then I called her again but just to say hello, not to ask her to meet with me. And one year went by. In 2005, I called her again and this time she invited me to her home and she didn’t cancel.
Our first reunion was good. To be honest, I just felt like I was meeting someone I didn’t know for the first time. I was so nervous, and maybe it is just so much to handle on the emotional level that one blocks the true emotions. I showed her pictures of myself when I was a baby and a kid, and she showed me pictures of her family, too. And after ‘the ice was broken’, I asked her if she could tell me the reason why she gave me up for adoption. I explained to her that I needed to know why. She seemed ok with my question. I guess she was expecting it. She told me that when I was born she already was a single mother (She has another daughter who is 10 years older than me and we were born on the exact same day), and she was living at her aunt’s place with her other daughter. Apparently, her aunt told her that if she had another child she would no longer be welcome to stay there. My biological mother, Elisa, is a nurse and she did have a job but she told me she couldn’t afford to take care of two kids. I also asked about my biological father and she told me a little bit about him and said that they never saw each other again. I didn’t ask for many details. I didn’t know how. I guess I was nervous and I didn’t want to upset her. She also told me that her other daughter doesn’t know about my existence. Apparently, she hid her pregnancy from her and never told her I was born.
Elisa also wanted to know about me and my life. When I told her my parents got divorced when I was 10 years old she got upset. I guess she always thought that by giving me up for adoption I was going to have a perfect life and when I told her that that was not the case she was surprised.
Our meeting lasted for approximately 2 hours. When I left we told each other that we were going to be in touch. And we were for the first year after our reunion.
At the end of the year 2005, I got married and moved to the US, to New York, for 5 years. My first year in New York, Elisa called me a couple of times and we met again when I went back home for the holidays. We had lunch together one more time and it was nice. After that, we lost touch. I don’t know why. Personally, I think I needed a lot of time to process everything. On her side, I think she needed and still needs time, too.
Thirteen years went by. At the beginning of 2018 I contacted Elisa again. I asked her if we could meet and she said yes. We got together in an afternoon, at a coffee place. She was nice and nervous. She is 73 years old now. I’m thankful that she accepted to see me. She asked me about my life and I asked her about hers. We talked for a while and I told her the reason I wanted to see her was that I wanted to ask her about my biological father. In 2005 she gave me his name but I couldn’t find him so I needed more information. She gave me what I asked for. After several hours we said goodbye one more time. We gave each other a long hug. I think about it, even now, and it makes me sad. I feel she hasn’t forgiven herself for giving me up (even though I told her I was never angry at her for it), and her guilt doesn’t allow her to open up completely to me. I don’t know… I still wonder… I never really understood why she gave me up. She was 35 years old when I was born. She was a single mom already, yes, but she was a nurse and she always had a job. I think she had resources… I honestly think she could have kept me. I guess there are things she will never tell me and I have to accept that.
After my third encounter with my biological mother, I found my biological father, through Facebook. We only spoke on the phone. He was very nice to me. He actually didn’t know about my existence. He told me that my biological mother told him she had an abortion. So he never knew I was actually born.
Today he is 68 years old, already retired, and he never married nor had any children. He was surprised and happy… at least it seemed he was happy when I told him I’m his daughter. Our conversation was long and kind. He seems to be a good man. I felt peace. I still haven’t met him in person. I’m giving him the time he asked for, to process all this. I am anxious and I do think about him every day, hoping he decides to call me again.
Everyone in my family (adoptive family) knows all about my searches and reunions. My adoptive dad was always happy for me. He supports me 100% on this. For my adoptive mom, it’s more difficult. She tells me she supports me but I can tell it’s hard for her.
Overall, I’m finally at peace and happy. Being an adoptive child is part of who I am. I wouldn’t change this. My life was not perfect. My adoptive parents are not perfect. But they do love me and did their best. And I guess my biological parents did what they could too. I like to see the ‘glass half full’. I do hope at some point in my life we can all be closer.
Thanks for ‘hearing’ me.”
born in Argentina, adopted and raised in Argentina
She is the founder of the blog “La Voz del Hijo”, which you can find and follow at www.lavozdelhijo.org
Florencia is a Psychologist and Social Worker. She got her Master’s at Columbia University in New York and she specializes in adoption.