My Adoption Story Part 10: I Am Not White!

Born in Colombia, adopted to Sweden.

Born Latina, raised Caucasian.

Growing up, I felt that I blended right in. I never looked at my friends as white and myself as not.

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Looking back recently, I realized that I didn’t reflect over my friends’ whiteness, and while I am not sure if I considered myself white, I just never thought of it. I would not have worded it that way, but I did at the very least, feel I was no different. I never clashed with other people growing up. I was too cautious not to fall out of line, to clash with anyone. Growing up, it was fine. I didn’t feel different, and no one ever made me feel different.

Although, as I am writing this, little instances come to mind. Memories of moments I felt that I was actually not like my friends. In the summertime, there would be comments about my skin tone. They were usually well-meaning comments along the lines of “With your beautiful/already darker skin color, you won’t ever have to worry about suntanning”. I didn’t take offense when said, but I do realize looking back how that did point to a difference in me, as compared to most of my friends.

I remember looking at myself and my friends realizing that I developed earlier. I did not have the same body type as them. I was never skinny or petite like many of my friends. Our gene pools were just not the same and growing up I had no one who mirrored my body, my complexion, my hair color, my heritage, and background. I think this is where the difference also is in terms of being an adoptee and being a child with an immigrant background. While possibly feeling somewhat displaced, a child with an immigrant background, does have his or her family, his or her cultural, racial and social background present, and accessible, where the adoptee is standing alone in their experience and their loss of reflection around them.

I also do remember one instance when a comment was said to me that made me feel a bit surprised as it pointed to my difference. Someone commented on my lips being very full and made a small comment/joke (with no ill intent), that I would be spending a lot of money on lipstick, seeing how my lips were very full. It has not bothered me, it has not offended me, but I still see how that is a comment that could very well have caused damage, as it pointed to a feature of mine that was clearly standing out as not Swedish, not white. I have always been very proud of my lips and consider them one of the features I like best about myself in terms of physical aspects, so no harm done. BUT, what is more important is how that sort of comment does point to the inescapable fact that when an adoptee is transracial, there IS a difference and the difference IS noted, by others and many times more so by the adoptee themselves.

Pretending to be blind to that, ignoring that or actively rejecting that fact, does not make the difference go away, but makes the elephant in the room grow even bigger, even more powerful AND it adds shame to the situation. The adoptee is the one who ends up carrying that shame, and we do it, in the name of sparing our adoptive parents’ feelings.

Seems a bit backwards doesn’t it?

As for myself, I WAS different. I did not have any racial mirroring growing up. The fact that I was not able to, willing to, or ready to realize and accept that I was not white, not European, not Caucasian, growing up, does not mean that it didn’t make its way into my life. I think race and culture mix for me and so the biggest reason I was able to blend in socially and by extension felt comfortable racially, was because my cultural experience, my social experience, was only Swedish and only white. Except for my brother, I don’t remember being around any children with immigrant background growing up. Not until high school would I encounter them, and even then, I was so “comfortable” in my Swedish identity outwards, that I felt no need to identify with them.
That said, I remember saying from a very young age (maybe 5 or so) that I would not live in Sweden my whole life. I knew in my heart that I would get out of Sweden, to live somewhere else, and maybe or maybe not return one day. While I identified as Swedish, I did not ever feel a bond to Sweden, as if it was my homeland. It was just where I had ended up and so I grew up Swedish but knew I would spend much of my life elsewhere growing up.

My first chance came when I was 16 and got to move to Spain as a guest student. For the first time, I was able to be more, to be more me. Spain, while European and Caucasian, is worlds away from Sweden. People are louder, more out-going, more…just more. I was allowed to exit, welcomed even out of my shell. I easily adapted to the Spanish ways, learning the language of my origin in the process (albeit with a very different accent). There was no culture shock for me moving to Spain, but coming back to Sweden after, things changed. I had changed. And there was an internal shock as I was not willing to conform back into Swedish ways.

Where I had previously had mostly all Swedish friends, I started to gravitate towards friends with an immigrant background, feeling I was able to continue rejecting my “Swedishness”, the way I had started to while living in Spain. I was still not seeing it as a racial thing, did not reflect on my darker skin or Latina appearance. But I rejected the quiet, the held-back, reserved and square ways of the Swedes. I rebelled by being extra loud, laughing extra loud, talking extra loud, taking up more space than what was the social norm at the time. Growing up I had kept in check, now I provoked the side glances. And I had a group of friends around me who not only accepted that, but acted much the same way, if not more. And while I felt I related more to them, I still not fit in fully. They had their origins around them. I did not.

I was still balancing between being Swedish and not, being at home and not, trying to find the place where I could feel at peace and like there was room for me.

I found it in the US. The first time I was in New York City was the first time I felt at home. The first time I walked up the stairs from the subway in Manhattan and heard Spanish spoken all around me, the life, the noise, the chaos, I felt at peace. I knew in that instant that New York was the place I had been wanting to go to my entire life, without even considering it an option. In New York, I was allowed to be a private person, but never alone. I was able to be me, whatever version of me I wanted to be, and I would find my group of people. I was constantly surrounded by life but was not obligated to share my time with anyone. It worked for me. I could have a small close circle of friends, who I had selected, and the rest of the city and the people were surrounding, assuring me I was never alone. Automatically, I had friends from varying backgrounds. People were fascinated by my story. I was able to act Latina and I was able to draw benefits from my European experience. But there were times when I felt out of place, especially when actually approached as Latina. I could never just say I was Colombian. I always had to offer a disclaimer of sorts. The standard conversation would go something like this:

Them: Where are you from?

Me: I was born in Colombia but raised in Sweden.

Them: Oh really? Sweden?

Me: Yes, I was adopted to Sweden, so I grew up Swedish.

 

To most that was enough. They were intrigued and I had truthfully let them know that my experience in life was not Latina, barring any later misunderstandings. It explained why I didn’t speak Spanish with a Colombian accent. It explained why I may look puzzled at the mentioning at even the most basic classics mentioned in music, food, and other cultural features. It would explain that being Colombian didn’t mean I actually knew Colombia, had ever been there to remember it, or acted typically Colombian. I had learned the hard way to throw in that disclaimer, not to be assumed to know about typical Colombian things. It was all still a social disconnect to me though, no racial aspect to it all. Coming out of the fog would eventually change that. It started with me feeling a deeper pride in being Colombian, seeing fellow adoptees from Colombian truly embrace their “Colombianess” and claiming Colombia as theirs, even though they had never lived there or spoke the language.

After more than ten years in the US, married with two children, my husband and I decided to return to Sweden for some time. I no longer had the Swedish last name of my adoptive parents, but instead the Latino last name of my husband. I know that my name now will be read as the name of a person with an immigrant background, not a woman who has grown up with exclusively Swedish culture, food, and experience. With Swedish parents. Both of them. Growing up, I felt that I could pass for white. I almost feel embarrassed admitting to that now, understanding the term white-washed in a personal way. I look at my daughters in a sea of Swedish kids, and they stand out. In the way they look and in the way they act. Several times, I have found myself in a sea of majority if not only Swedish people, and I stand out. Recently, I was looking through pictures from when I was little, and it dawned on me, I was the only non-white person among all my friends, and I stood out. The disconnect was always there, the difference is that now it makes sense. It never did growing up. I also recently watched John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons” and it brought me an aha-moment. He talks about how Latin American history has been pushed aside and how growing up, he lacked historical heroes of Latin American descent, of his own people. I realized that my entire life, I had bought into the idea that I wasn’t truly a person with an immigrant background, that I was more Swedish than Colombian, more white than Latina, more European than Latin American, and I felt fooled. I felt denied my own origin, my own history, and my own background. All over again. I felt I had been brought along in the denial and not understanding the situation, not being able to put words to my feelings of disconnect, and it not being socially acceptable to talk about race where I grew up, I adopted the Swedish, white identity that I was expected to do as an adoptee child to fully Swedish, white parents. To this day, I don’t feel completely comfortable with this topic, but I know how important it is, and what a large part it is of who I am, so I push my discomfort aside and for the first time in my life, I am able to look at myself truthfully and say:

I am not white!

And as a transnational, transracial adoptee, that matters…

 

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!

 

Go to My Adoption Story, to read my whole story from the beginning.

ADOPTION STORIES: SUZAN PLEVA, born in the United States, adopted in the United States

Fellow adoptee Suzan Pleva tells you her adoption story, in her own words. Suzan has become a strong voice in the adoptee community, advocating for change and fighting for adoptee rights. You will understand why when you read her story…

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“My name is Suzan. I was originally named Susan. I am an adult Biracial Adoptee. I was born on August 6th, 1983 into an all-white affluent large Catholic family- where I was the only ethnic person. To this day, I am still trying to figure out where I was actually born. I have two separate documents, stating that I was born on the exact same date & time, at two different hospitals. Both of these hospitals are about an hour away from each other and are in the metro-Detroit, Michigan area- located just under an hour from Downtown Detroit, Michigan.

There are still a lot of issues and mysteries around ‘why’ I was adopted. I can definitely say this, I absolutely have my own theories. I’ve been told several different lies, stories throughout my life from, the people that adopted me. The main thing that I do know, is the female who adopted me is infertile and psychologically unhealthy- and an extremely abusive person. This couple who adopted me could not bear children of their own, and I’ve been told several times that they ‘decided to create a family through adoption’. This couple fostered several different children over the years and adopted three of us.

I am the youngest of three siblings. We were all adopted from different families. My adoptive sister and brother are only 6 months apart in age, and I am 4 years younger than them. Out of the three us, I was what I call, ‘the targeted child’. It was a very rough burden to constantly take on, especially because I had no idea why the abuse was happening to me, and I was constantly being reprimanded for questioning it. I suffered, psychological, mental, physical, sexual, financial, and racial abuse on a regular basis, all while being isolated from seeking help to get safety and away from it.

The people that adopted me are ‘upstanding’ citizens, very sociable people, seem to have things together, are active members of their church, socialize with the affluent and elite’s of society. On the outside, all looked well. I grew up on a private all-sports lake, in a nice home, dinner was on the table every night at 6:00 pm when the male adopter got home from work where there was a family dinner that the adopter female made. To give you an example of the actuality and reality of the situation is….. the bank owns these peoples house. It was definitely a life of living inside of the impaired duality of two different worlds. From the outside looking in, all looked well. In all actuality, it was a living ‘smoke and mirrors’ nightmare. As a child, trying to figure out what the hell was happening was very scary and confusing, because there was no explanation for the fact that my gut told me that something just ‘wasn’t right’.

I’ve never blamed my adoptive brother and sister for the mistreatment and abuse I faced, much of it came from them. I honestly think that they never knew better, and probably never will know better, because they were raised and conditioned to think that the way I was treated was ‘normal’, and that I was ‘overreacting’, and/or ‘being too sensitive’. Now, in my adult years, looking back on things, feeling terrorized from being chased around the house by a person with a pair of scissors in a stabbing motion screaming at me ‘you dumb fuck*** nigg** you’d better not close your eyes to sleep at night’, and then being physically attacked when I couldn’t run away any longer is NOT ‘over-reacting’, or ‘being too sensitive’. That’s just blatantly being abused, and being terrorized. But it was forced on me to mask it all to the outside world, and pretend that I was ‘so grateful’ for these ‘wonderful’ people that adopted me and ‘gave me a better life’.

Just only two years ago, when I was 33 years old, I came to learn that the people that adopted me didn’t actually adopt me until I was 3 years old. Before this, I was their foster child for three years, since infancy. Before that, I had only one other home that I was in up until the age of one-month-old. The more I come to learn what happened with my real family, and how I came to be in the people’s home that adopted me, the more I understand why I never felt connected to the people that adopted me. It all just felt so forced and fabricated. I can distinctly remember having the gut thought and feeling at age 11 about the female adopter, “you are not my Mother, this is not my real family”. But I knew that I had to continue to put on the barrage and play the part for survival purposes.

In December of 2017, I came to learn that my real Mother went ‘mysteriously missing’ in the year 1986, just 3 years after she gave birth to me. Right around the time that this had happened, I came to learn that the people that adopted me had petitioned to officially adopt me so that I would no longer be a ‘foster child’ of theirs, but legally adopted. I also came to learn, that my real family, my birth uncle and Aunt (My real Mother’s brother and sister) weren’t aware of my existence until they were informed by the state of the petition of my adoption in 1986. At this time when they were informed of my existence in 1986, my real family went to court to try to fight to get me back. They lost to the courts. The court’s apparent reasoning for why I could not be with my real family, was because they claimed that I had formed a ‘bond’ with the people that petitioned to adopt me due to being in their home for 3 years. I’ll tell you right now, I have never formed a bond with the people that adopted me.

Coming to learn this in my adult years, especially dealing with the trauma that I have faced due to the constant and ongoing abuse I endured at the hands of the people that adopted me, learning this information has been very traumatic knowing that this could have been prevented but wasn’t. Knowing and learning that I could’ve been with my real family, but was denied this right, has been a very sad thing to think about.

The lady that adopted me is definitely an extremely abusive person, and I was the target of her abuse. You wouldn’t know it by looking at and talking to this person.

I started researching my real family, and the truth when I was 26 years old. I tried to get support from the people who adopted me in the beginning for a couple of years, but they would constantly tell me I was ‘ungrateful for all they’ve done for me’, and I would immediately be re-routed to THEIR family history, in which there is none of my biology. I specifically remember bringing my laptop with my Ancestry DNA results into the kitchen where the male and female adopter was sitting at the kitchen table to show them. I was very excited. They both blatantly ignored what I was saying and showing them, and the male adopter took my laptop, closed out the tab of the DNA results, and immediately pulled up his family history and began lecturing me on how THIS was my family history and heritage. At that point, I knew, not to share anything else with these people about my search and my journey. There was another time, where I had finally found my biological Uncle. I brought this to the female adopters attention. She immediately pulled out her little personal phone book and said to me, “well why didn’t you just ask me for his phone number? I’ve got it right here”. I had asked these adopters many times over about my real family, and if they had any information. The adopters blatantly lied to me about this. It was gaslighting at it’s finest.

Along my journey of finding and learning about my real, biological family, and history- I was able to find bits and pieces, clues if you will, to my story along the way. The full-on truth didn’t actually come to light until I was age 33 when the facts and paperwork started being obtained. I had blocked out the memories of the abuse from the people that adopted me because I was subconsciously protecting myself from the trauma and damage it would cause. I honestly believe my body and mind became so tired of the forced denial I was in, that my instincts finally kicked in. I decided to speak out and tell the truth about the abuse, isolation, and constant poor treatment I dealt with at the hands of the female abuser adopter and her enabling, co-dependent husband, to the public. I knew it was time for me to say goodbye to that part of my life and leave those unhealthy people in the past, move on to bigger and better things.

What I didn’t realize at the time was, I had exposed an abuser to the public, and the abuser wasn’t just going to go away after being exposed. This is when the retaliation against me began.

The people that adopted me began stalking me and harassing me in a very aggressive manner, to the point that it was absolutely terrorizing. I’ve been dealing with this for two years. My career, reputation, relationships, personal information, have all been violated by the people that adopted me because I spoke out about the abuse I suffered at their hands. I knew full well, that narcissistic abuse and being isolated by it is extremely dangerous. One of the hardest things to get away from and escape from in abuse, in my opinion, is the isolation that the abuser forces you into. The abuser makes a concerted effort to strip you of your support system, and weaken the quality of your words, by making others believe that you are not telling the truth. That’s when I decided I needed to find a new and proper support system, as I learned that the people I thought were my support system, were not. They were only ‘supportive’, if I was playing the role of ‘Suzie Sunshine’, and didn’t tell the truth about what happened to me. They were only there if I kept the lies about what happened to me intact. I was finished with that lifestyle. I was now onto a lifestyle of honesty.

I moved, changed cities, changed my phone number. I had to break ties and communication with anyone and everyone I had ever known in my life, as I realized that the people that I was isolated by, and surrounded with were extremely unhealthy, as they were condoning the abuse, as I was being shamed for speaking the truth about what happened to me. I was constantly told that I was ‘overreacting’ or ‘lying’ when I would try to understand or talk about the abuse that was happening to me. I now realize, that abuse is abuse, and it is wrong to try to silence and villainize an overcoming victim of it.

This is when I began my journey of prevention of abuse in adoption. This is when I began learning the truth about the laws and facts of adoption. It’s when I began to really ponder how the societal norm sees adoption, and how the general public tends to view an Adoptee’s experience. It’s when I learned about how high the Adoptee suicide rate was. It’s also when I realized how important my role is in advocating for my community of Adoptee’s and Adoptee rights.

I now stand, after all of the nightmares that I endured after speaking out about what happened to me, very proud of my strength, knowing that I have a very bright future ahead of me. I am an Adoptee, and I always seek out ways to accomplish what I’m fighting for, and that’s the honest truth. I was finally able to legally protect myself from the people that adopted me who were stalking and harassing me for the past two years, because I gained the courage to realize that there is no shame in telling the truth and that when you are being stalked and harassed, it’s very important to have the courage to use the words stalking, harassment, as this is exactly what happened to me.

I find it extremely important to keep working to inform the society about the truths in all that is adoption. I work very hard to inform the general public about the importance of preventing unnecessary adoption. I stand strong on the fundamental reason of why adoption was created, which is to provide homes to children who are actually in need of them. Adoption was not created to provide children to people who want one. Humans are not commodities, humans are not objects to be owned. Humans have fundamental civil rights for a reason. Above all, throughout my journey, I’ve learned what healthy, caring, genuinely loving people are because I lived 3 decades being surrounded by what it is not, all while being told it was the real thing.

I’ve got a lot of life ahead of me, and I’m so happy to know that I no longer have to live my life under the bog of shame, and humiliation of adoption. As an Adult Adoptee, I finally have my community, and fellows who understand me, who know and have had the same experiences that I have. I am now finally surrounding myself with people who get me, and I am no longer isolated. It’s a journey that is unraveling, and happening ‘slowly but surely’, and I look forward to the next of what’s to come.

One of the biggest challenges that I’ve come to face and realize is when sharing my experiences, and opinions, there are always those who impose their words of stating, “Not All”, or being told that I am “bitter or angry”. When a person hears of another’s journey, and it is not a happy tale, it’s important that people keep the mindset of respect, and honor those who have suffered a lot. It gets daunting, as an Adoptee, to hear a person try to tell me what my position on adoption should be if they are not an adopted person.

I always state it like this- “A non-adopted person trying to tell an Adoptee about adoption and how they should think about it is like a person who’s never flown a plane before, walking into an airport filled with expert pilots, and trying to tell them how to fly planes”. I’d really like to get that out to the masses because if a person thinks in this mind frame, there would be a LOT of plane crashes. Just leave the informing up to the expert pilots. They are the ones flying planes on a regular basis and know the reality of what being a pilot is. Just like Adoptee’s, we are the ones that have lived every second of adoption hold the most powerful voice in adoption, yet society suppresses this fact and tends to silence our powerful voices. It’s time to change this narrative. The world would be a much better place if more people listened to the experts. The experts are the Adoptees.

My voice will continue to be heard, and I will continue to speak. I encourage any Adoptee to speak their mind, speak about their experiences. Even the smallest amount of sharing your experience can help someone that you may not know is learning from you.

This is my story, my take on things.”

Written by:

– Suzan, originally named Susan Marie –

Born in the United States

Adopted in the United States

To connect with Suzan and to see her work, please follow the links below. Suzan is a strong advocate and fighter for adoptee rights. She is also a first mother of loss, the other side of the adoption triad and adoption narrative that gets pushed to the side and silenced time and time again.

SUZAN’S WEBSITE: (featuring fellow adoptee’s stories also) www.proudofwhoiam.me

SUZAN’S TWITTER: www.twitter.com/soproudofwhoiam 

SUZAN’S FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/soproudofwhoiam

SUZAN’S INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/soproudofwhoiam

SUZAN’S GO FUND ME: www.gofundme.com/proudofwhoiam

 

A Piece of My Writing: A Letter To the People Involved in My Adoption…

To the People Involved in My Adoption,

Maybe my papers are true. Maybe I was an unknown baby, found in the street, handed over to the police by an unknown woman, my photo placed in a local newspaper, unclaimed, placed with a foster mother, put up for adoption, matched with a couple and then adopted.

That could be true.

And it could be a fabricated lie.

And I may never know which one.

Here is what I want YOU to know, the people who were in any way, shape or form involved in my adoption.

I want you to know that I grew up fine anyway. On the surface, I did well my whole life. I called myself the success story of adoption, and you almost got away with it. With neglecting to include information that could have been helpful if the day ever came that I would want to search for my first mother and family. You almost got away with not informing my adoptive parents of the potential problems their adoptee child might face one day, as a result of the separation trauma and transnational, transracial adoption.

You almost got away with it all.

However, I want you to know that I have lived in survival mode my entire life. I have not been able to trust anyone to let them all the way in. I mean to the point of being able to open up and be vulnerable. I put up a wall of protection around me when I was a baby, and added reinforcement to it when I was about 9 years old when I no longer felt emotionally safe. It grew with me and has never come down. It keeps people out and I remain alone inside of it.

I want you to know that when I look in the mirror I am confused because I have nothing else than my own reflection to reference who I am. I can stare at myself, stare deep in my eyes and feel disconnected from my own reflection. At times I have even felt disconnected from my body, acting in ways that make no sense and that seem fueled by an irrational unconscious drive to destruct and taint situations that seem to be going too well.

I want you to know that I always felt disconnected from my family and that I have lived with guilt my entire life because of that. I felt I should be able to say I loved my family, even though those words were never ever spoken to me. I felt guilty for distancing myself. I felt guilty for not wanting to be around them. I felt guilty for hating who I became in their company. I felt guilty for being triggered constantly by them. I felt guilty for not being able to be a good daughter and need my parents.

I want you to know that in my teenage years I made unhealthy decisions because of my hunger to be seen, loved and needed. I gave my heart away too easily in a way that completely contradicted the wall I had put up towards family and friends. But then again, I was able to disconnect from myself and be in a situation and later barely remember it. Like life was happening around me and I was a character in a play. People and things were not constant.

I want you to know that I have wrecked friendships in my belief that I can’t let people in. In my fear of rejection and in my underlying belief that nothing is supposed to last. Any relationship has an end. My relationship with my mother was over one day, all of a sudden. How can any relationship after that be supposed to last? My relationship with my parents was forever tainted by the separation trauma I had been through before it. Instead of letting them comfort me, I attached the rejection to them as the only tangible thing I had connected to my past and my pain. They didn’t stand much of a chance at being the parents I needed.

I want you to know that I grew up feeling that I was always too much. My personality did not fit the culture I was growing up in. I felt out of place. I was good at not showing it, but over and over again, I was too loud, too hot-tempered, too much. I always held back. I could not afford to not be accepted so I held back. I could not afford to be criticized, it would hurt too much, so I held back. Constantly. Not showing my true self to anyone, not even to myself. Denying anything that would hint at not being happy and in full control.

I want you to know that I suffer separation anxiety when alone. I cannot be isolated. I feel beyond alone if I am by myself for too long with no social interaction. I need people around me. Otherwise, I feel invisible, non-existent and forgotten. I need to be seen and recognized to know that I matter and that I am not being abandoned all over again.

I want you to know that I struggle with taking responsibility for my mistakes. If I have to say I’m sorry it means I did something wrong. If I did something wrong I might be less loveable and if I admit to it I have to feel it. Worthless, unloveable, wrong.

I want you to know that you did nothing to prepare my parents for being adoptive parents. You set them up to fail when you approved them and gave them a baby with a traumatic past but said nothing of this but let them go on their way thinking this baby was theirs and would grow up theirs and everything would be fine. They were never given a chance. So they mistook my entire being. They thought I was strong, independent and reliable when in fact I was in survival mode all the time and would not let them in and they gave up too easily.

I want you to know I grew up not wanting to know anything about my adoption. You almost got away with it. I grew up denying myself my own past. I did not claim Colombia as mine. I told people I didn’t want to search. I said I was born in Colombia, but that Sweden was my home. I said I felt as Swedish as anyone else. I called myself the success story of adoption. I knew nothing of separation trauma and its effects. You almost got away with it all.

To everyone involved in my adoption, I have lived with the consequences of your actions my entire life. I have lived in denial because of your actions. I have lived in the fog my entire life because of your actions. I have lied to myself my entire life because of your actions. My entire life I believed I have no way to search for my own history because of your actions.

Then I found other adoptees. Fellow adoptees from Colombia. And I found out the truth.

The lies, the kidnappings, the corruption, the greed, the money and the false narrative of adoption being a win-win for both the adoptee child and the adoptive parents.

I came out of the fog.

And today I want you to know that you did not get away with it. Your actions created a person who was quiet until now. Who denied herself. Who denied her own truth. Who denied her own story. Who denied her own history. Who denied her first family.

You almost got away with it.

But today I want you to know that you did not. I found strength. I am reclaiming my own voice. I am no longer denying myself, my own truth, my own story, my own history or my first family. I am growing stronger, my voice is growing louder, and I will use it to give my fellow adoptees strength, validation, and power in sharing their stories. I will build communities, networks and I will not be quiet anymore.

You almost got away with it. I almost became the “success story” of adoption.

But you didn’t because I didn’t.

I didn’t become the success story of adoption.

Instead, I have become the advocate for family preservation that will now do everything in my power to help fellow adoptees, current and future, to raise their voices and share their stories so that people can see the full truth about adoption and its consequences from the perspective of adoptees.

And I want you to know that I will no longer keep your lies, your corruption, your greed, your selfishness, your narrative, and the havoc they wreak a safe secret.

We are many, we are connecting, and we are in this together.

Brace yourselves!

Kind regards,

Amanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ADOPTION STORIES: Doriana Gabrielle Diaz, born in Puerto Rico, adopted to the United States

FELLOW ADOPTEE DORIANA SHARES HER ADOPTION STORY WITH YOU, IN HER OWN WORDS. A SELF-PUBLISHED WRITER, POET, AND ARTIST, SHE USES POETRY TO SHINE A LIGHT ON THE EXPERIENCE, THE QUESTIONS,  THE FEELINGS, AND THE REALITY OF HER OWN ADOPTION STORY, ONE THAT MANY OF US FELLOW ADOPTEES SHARE WITH HER… THE FOLLOWING IS TAKEN FROM HER BOOK (LINK AT THE BOTTOM) THAT IS A COLLECTION OF POEMS SHE WROTE DURING HER RETURN TO PUERTO RICO TO MEET HER FIRST MOTHER…

Doriana Image Blog

“My name is Doriana Gabrielle Diaz,

When I was born, my birth mother gave me a name: Gabriella Diaz. The women who adopted me chose a new name for me when I was placed in their arms: Doriana Markovitz. The change of a child’s name is common in adoptions. In the last year, I legally changed my name to Doriana Gabrielle Diaz, to reclaim the name my birth mother chose for me, to reclaim my heritage, and to reclaim Puerto Rico as my place of origin. Knowing your own name is power. It is being able to look at a map and point to the place on earth your people originated from. I have identified myself by newly connecting my name to the woman who birthed me. In this process, I have begun to redefine myself and my place in the world as an adopted person.

 

The following is a poem from my book (page 43) Day 4 July 10th, 2018

 

Mami calls me Gabriella

She sucks her teeth sweet,

And folds her tongue into

her throat like a quilt.

She smiles into my eyes.

She says it likes she’s never

known me as anything else.

 

Not many people discuss adoption. Adoptees rarely do in public, adopted parents keep it to themselves, and birth mothers and fathers often times suppress their stories and pretend it didn’t happen. I was in that silent place, I am not any longer. That is why I am here to tell you how I made it out of the fog and began to process my adoption story. It is important to note that this process looks and feels different for every adopted person. I am speaking only from the “I” perspective. My adoption story is mine and no one else’s. I am not here to speak for all adoptees, or to speak for all transracial adoptees. I am here only to speak my own truth.

In this story, I will outline my process, reflections and self-discovery starting from childhood to my recent reunion with my birth mother and birth family in Puerto Rico. Throughout this story, I will also be reading poems from my book to further my explanations.

I was raised by many mothers, many women have poured themselves into me. I am the product of the multi-dimensionality of womanhood. I have only ever known the struggle and hardship, while also the joy and power that women can offer to one another and their children. But I am also motherless because there is a woman out there who I did not know, but whose body was my first home. I knew this from the time I could understand that the women who adopted me did not look like me. Their skin does not look like mine, their hair does not feel like mine, and their bodies are not shaped like mine. Even though I knew this, I felt safe inside that truth.

When I was a child, my parents tried to explain my adoption to me. When they tried the first time, I didn’t get it. I was maybe four or five. When they explained it again, I didn’t want to understand. I might have been nine or ten. The more they tried to tell me, the less I wanted to know.

Now I understand there is not a moment when I’m not an adoptee. When I buy groceries, I am an adoptee. When I go to the doctor, I am an adoptee. I hug my sisters as an adoptee, I brush my teeth as an adoptee. I cannot choose not to be an adoptee. There is no end to it, just like there is no end to being someone’s child.

My birth mother was my first love and my first heartbreak. I was born and then I was surrendered and throughout my life, I have been in pain. When I met her I thought my story would change. I thought the loss I carry would disappear. My trip to Puerto Rico did not change that. But it did teach me that the hole that was left inside me from the separation is where my power resides, and that power is strong and unwavering. It cannot be broken and it cannot be tamed.

I am a miracle child.

 

(pg 38), Day 4, July 10th, 2018

 

I got out of the shower. Mama dried me off, as she wiped my back and zipped my dress she said, “this is where you didn’t grow up”

I don’t know these mountains.

I don’t know the ways they bend and fold into the sun.

I don’t know the language they speak here.

I don’t know how to curl my tongue to make the smooth melodies.

I don’t know how to eat a guava, every time I try, the seeds end up in the crevices between my teeth.

I don’t know the sound of the tropical breeze, the whistling is unfamiliar to me.

I don’t know hours of skipping barefoot in acres of lush vegetation.

I don’ t know passionfruit or morning glory.

I don’t know about the breaks in Leo’s fence and the shortcuts through the woods that lead to the next barrio.

I don’t know the sound of light falling between my legs.

I don’t know Javier, his shirt always stained yellow with sweat, who lives next-door with three dogs and no wife or children.

I know nothing of this place, and yet, I am still here pretending to know.

 

I got on the plane back to the states unaware of how to exist as the woman I was when I landed on the island a week prior. I know now that I am my birth mother’s daughter. As an adoptee, I know about what it means to mourn more than most do. I mourn the girl I could have been, I mourn my missing mother, and I mourn the life I’ll never live. There’s no way to become who I would have been if I hadn’t been adopted. Puerto Rico does not belong to me in the ways that it could or in the ways I wish it did, but it offered me transformative experiences that I will hold in my heart for the rest of my life.

 

(page 62) Day 7, July 13th, 2018

 

I saw a mama carrying a brown baby on her back,

playing hopscotch

in the waves.

 

there was a black family,

big,

with lots of skin,

laying in the sand.

 

a man on the beach was sharpening his machete,

breaking open pounds of coconuts with

one well-placed cut.

there were flamboyant trees with

orange flowers covering the sky.

 

the last thing I saw was

bright specks of light dancing

in semicircles.

 

Puerto Rico taught me that I am not a victim. I was, something terrible happened to me, but I am no longer the victim of that circumstance. The detachment that I had spent so much of my life feeling can finally be explained…

I am native to nowhere, no place, and no person. I am only native to this skin that contains me, these bones that hold me up, these hands, these feet, and this mind that never rests. I am native to this heart.

 

On July 19th, 1998 I was born into a decision in which I had no choice. But today, and every day moving forward I have a choice.

I choose to love despite the fear.

I choose to own my life.

I chose to face my grief, to process it, and to learn how to live with all that I have lost.

I choose to be the answers to my own prayers.

I choose which places I can call home.

I choose to heal myself on my own terms and at my own pace.

I choose to claim those ancestors who chose not to claim me.

I choose how to love myself.

I choose to speak when words are needed and to share the silence when they are not.

I choose the name I use.

I choose who to share myself with.

I choose to fight for children to know their mothers and fathers.

I choose truth.”

Written by:

Doriana Gabrielle Diaz

born in Puerto Rico

adopted to the United States

Doriana Gabrielle Diaz is a transracial adoptee, poet, self-published writer, and artist.

You can find her work via the following links:

Instagram: @dorianadiaz_ 
Direct link to her book: https://dorianadiaz.com/shop-books

My Adoption Story Part 9: I Talk Adoption on the Podcast “Adoption Advocacy Podcast” with Francie Frisbie, a fellow adoptee herself

Today I share my adoption story with you in an episode of the podcast “Adoption Advocacy Podcast” with host and fellow adoptee Francie Frisbie.

I found Francie and her podcast as she was getting ready to launch at the beginning of the year. In a post on Instagram, she invited people who have been touched by adoption, to be a guest on her show, and talk adoption with her.

I reached out and a few weeks ago we recorded our conversation around adoption, coming out of the fog and the contradiction it can be to live as an adoptee.

So far, her guests have included fellow adult adoptees, sharing their story and experience, a prospective adoptive parent who have realized the importance in fighting for family preservation and ethical practices in adoption, and her own sister, biological daughter to their parents.

And now me!

I was so very nervous before recording this podcast episode I almost canceled the whole thing. I am happy to say I did not, and today it is out for you all to listen to!

Please, have a listen and don’t hesitate to reach out to connect or let me know your thoughts or questions.

Link to the episode on the website:

http://www.adoptionadvocacypodcast.com/podcast/episode-9-amanda-medina/

And please, make sure to follow this podcast, as it is yet another great resource in the adoptee community.

Thank you for spending this time with me!

We all have a story to tell. We all have life experiences to share. There is always someone out there who can find inspiration, motivation or support in your story, so don’t be afraid to share it. Own your story, share your story and write (tell) your story…

All my love to all of you!

/Amanda

PS. We are all in this together!

 

My Adoption Story Part 8: Out of the Fog into Grieving and Depression, and onto Healing…

I WAS NOT PLANNING ON BEING AWAY FOR THIS LONG when I wrote my short post before the holidays saying I was going to focus on family and myself for a little while. Truth is, I have tried to get back, tried to write again but have not been able to. Every time I have sat down I have been triggered to the point of having to leave it alone.

As if the experience of being involved in the adoptee community, constantly talking about adoption, constantly thinking about adoption, constantly feeling the adoption was so overwhelming in itself that it became too much to handle for me. It started eating me from the inside. Emotions I had pushed aside my whole life made their way to the surface and most days there was nothing else to do but to cry.

I am starting to feel better again, and hope that in terms of coming out of the fog the last two months were the culmination. I had several breakdowns, a huge amount of anxiety and there were more tears than I can recall. I have never felt broken before, but during this time I did.

“It’s called “coming out of the fog” – the process by which adoptees who have considered themselves unaffected by adoption, start looking to their past, their background, their origin and as a result start shifting their view on adoption, their own and in general, as well as the effects it may have had on their life…

It is real, it is a hell of a ride, and going back in is not an option…”

This was a facebook post of mine on April 23, 2018. I was about halfway through the process and experience of coming out of the fog. My view on adoption had shifted, my own and in general. I was becoming more and more aware of the problems with adoption, the industry of adoption and the real effects of adoption on the people who it affected the most; the adoptees.

As I have mentioned before, once I started coming out of the fog I essentially went through the stages of grief. It took me a while to realize that I was going through grieving. Once I understood that my emotions and my state of mind were those of a person who is grieving the next question became, what was I grieving? Was I grieving the mother I knew nothing about? The life I didn’t get to have? The family I didn’t get to know? The person I didn’t become?

It was difficult to think of the things I had lost, although I had barely had them in the first place.

But what became even harder was what came after. Coming out of the fog didn’t only mean shifting my view on my adoption, on my life. All the insights that came with the process, with reading and informing myself, and realizing how so much of my own behavior, my own decisions, and even how my life had played out was all through the lens of adoption and separation were heartbreaking to deal with.

But the most difficult part of coming out of the fog, of the grieving that followed, was not the insights, not even the loss of the things I’ve mentioned so far, but the feeling of having lost MYSELF. I was no longer the person I had been before coming out of the fog, the person I had built myself up to be, the person I had shaped myself into being, the person I felt really proud of being and who I had learned to love.

Coming out of the fog I lost her. I was not prepared to grieve the loss of myself.

I felt like a shell, like an empty body, and I had no idea how to handle that.

I was thrown into something like a depression. People around me would not have known. They could maybe sense something was up, something was off. But that I was angry about everything, felt no desire to do anything and cried for nothing… Not many would have known because talking about it would have meant risking breaking down in front of someone…

One of the things I am more afraid of than anything is the risk of giving in to breaking down. I don’t know if there is any coming back from that if there is a way to put myself back together if I do that. So I don’t cry in front of people. It’s a way for me to still keep my emotions in check.

I can talk about it all after. That is progress because a couple of years ago I was holding ALL the emotions in, and would not admit to having them to myself or to others. Here I am talking and writing and sharing about it. One step at the time…

The following is a piece I wrote about a month ago:

“I have a hard outer shell.
I’m tough, can even be intimidating.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that.
People who meet me for the first time tell me, some right away, some later.
I can crack a joke and laugh loudest in the room in any given social setting.
And I do.
I easily put myself in the center of attention.
She’s such a happy person.
She’s such a confident person.
She’s got such insight.
She’s so strong.
I only cry behind locked doors, by myself.
I let the tears stream down my cheeks,
dragging the makeup down along with them.
I hold my hand over my chest to counterbalance the pressure and pain of crying quietly, of wanting to scream but not being able to, and of wanting to kick and hit the wall, the door, anything to release the feelings and let them go, but not being able to.
I break down quietly.
By myself.
Behind locked doors.
Then I stand in front of the mirror.
I look deep in my red puffy eyes.
I wipe my cheeks.
Look long and hard at myself.
Pull back my shoulders.
Lift my head straight.
Tell myself I got this.
I break down sometimes.
But I’m not broken yet.
Turn around and walk out,
hoping I waited long enough after the last tear fell, to be able to meet peoples’ eyes without them knowing I had even a single tear fall.
And I put that smile back on my face.
If I didn’t tell you, you would never know…”

More than an actual depiction of a situation or event, it is also a representation of a life-long fear of crying in front of people, holding all the emotions in and never ever wanting to show any weakness to the world around me, that I have lived with for as long as I can remember. My role in the family was that of a compliant adoptee. Not because I was told, not because I was made to take that part, but because of how my first year and a half of life had affected me. All the understanding and insight that has come with being able to look back through a new lens and realize that so much of my seemingly illogical behavior and decisions at times, had the most logical explanation of all, in the trauma of separation and subsequent adoption, and life as a transnational transracial adoptee gives me hope.

I know I am not alone in this. I know from talking with fellow adoptees that my experience is shared by others. I am hoping that I have finally reached a point where healing can begin…

I hope you stay with me in the new year, as I embark on new projects and ways to be involved in the adoptee community, helping to raise the voices of adult adoptees, in order to bring awareness to the reality of the adoption experience. I’ll be sharing it all with you…

 

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!

 

 

 

 

ADOPTION STORIES: Juliana Ledesma, born in Colombia, adopted to the United States

Fellow Colombian adoptee Juliana Ledesma shares with you, her adoption story in her own words. This one touches on the damage that the lies can cause. Many adoptees will tell you that they just want to know the truth, good or bad. Just the truth…

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“My Adoptee Life ~ Adopted from Colombia

I was born in Medellin, Colombia in 1990.  Growing up, I was told my mother was young and couldn’t afford to take care of me “mas o menos” (more or less).  Looking back, I realize the story may have been fabricated over time. The story goes that when the orphanage was translating all my paperwork, my adoptive parents were holding me and were so excited that they were barely paying attention.  (Also, that it was just so long ago)  In short, I was told my first mum may have been from the mountains due to her poor writing and that she left me on the doorstep of the orphanage with a letter.  Prior to my adoption my adoptive parents were on an adoption waiting list for about 10 years.  In 1987 they adopted their first child, a boy, from a nearby city in the US.

They wanted a daughter and had heard it could be easier to adopt from Colombia.  January 10th, 1990 they applied to adopt an international orphan with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  On September 14, 1990 they received a referral letter for me and were awaiting pictures and other information.  My adoptive maternal grandmother wrote a list of questions, one of which stuck out to me.  “Was she relinquished by mother at birth?” To which my adoptive mother wrote in: “2-3 weeks.”

On September 29, 1990 they received my photo and “brief” information.  In a note, the director of my orphanage asked my adoptive parents to make their travel arrangements since they would have to make two trips and the adoption would be finalized there, in Colombia.I was healthy and a newborn, so they were very interested and within weeks, my parents and brother flew to Colombia to visit me for about a week.

When I was six and a half months old, I flew with my adoptive parents from Medellin to Detroit.  The story is deeply ingrained in my mind.  The date was February 14th, there was a blizzard and we had to fly around the area for hours waiting to land.  My entire extended family on my adoptive mother’s side was there waiting to meet me.  And so my “Gotcha Day” was always noted on February 15th due to the Valentine’s Day Blizzard. Oddly enough, life-changing things occur for me surrounding this date.

Fast forward 27 years.  My adoptive brother begins wondering about his natural family and tells me he has asked our mom for all of his adoption records.  It hits me that I have never done this and I do the same.  For the first time ever, I saw my natural mother’s name as well as her mother’s name.  I had seen my paperwork plenty of times… Whenever someone important needed my proof of citizenship we went into my files to copy my Naturalization certificate.  But it never appeared as big as it does today.  I’m pretty sure my adoptive mom kept the majority of it safe at her mother’s house. My grandmother passed away in 2014 and so it was all back in adoptive mother’s possession.  I will never forget that night when I saw my paperwork or the day after.  I was so angry with my adoptive mom.  I really felt betrayed and lied to.   I quickly hopped on google and searched my first mother’s name.  I found her – her email and her phone number!  The next day the world around me couldn’t stop spinning… I had never experienced anything like it before.  I still don’t know how I made it through that day, but I did.  A week later I decided to email my first mother.  A few days went by and no response.  I had found her work email and emailed that one as well.  The next day she responded from her personal email.  I could barely believe it.  Her responses were quick, short, and mostly cold. And  I would soon learn how afraid she is of the world knowing of my existence and relation to her.

After a month or two, my adoptive mom and I finally talked about it all and she admitted that it was purely her own “stupidity” and she really just didn’t even realize… this of course broke my heart but I guess in a better way than “my mom lied and tried to keep this from me my whole life”.   However, it still hurts that my relinquishment form was filed away somewhere else and I had only been given it when I asked when I was 27 years old.  It was the missing piece to my puzzle and had been under my nose the whole time.  This did cause a rift between my adoptive mother and I, but I am grateful we were able to communicate about it.  Opening up about so much of this had made one important thing very clear, our shared dream of going back to Colombia together was now completely out of the question.”

 

Written by

Juli Love

Born in Colombia

Adopted to the US

 

You can read and follow Juliana’s personal blog at www.godisheroath.wordpress.com