How Does It Feel To Be Adopted? – Iris Nova

Nellie

BIO

Age: 31

Adoptive family: My mother, older brother, sister-in-law and a niece. (Dad and eldest brother passed away)

Profession: A journalist

Hobbies: Writing, apart from work; making craft items, usually recycled stuff and playing badminton.

Daily Routine: Wake up, wash, clean, look for stories, go to work, go home, sleep and repeat. Occasionally spend some time with friends

Personality: Keeps changing according to the environment and people I am around. I am loud and look like a horse showing all its teeth when I laugh and I like everyone, if not love, because hate is too strong an emotion.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ADOPTED?

I’ll start with what adoption feels like.

It feels like an invisible boulder on your chest. The world looks at you with pity in their eyes when you tell them your adoption story, and you detest those pitiful glances; or maybe like the sympathies people offer because it’s comforting. It is confusing at times –are we even normal for all the complexities it brings, or are we all unique in our own ways because despite the odds, we survived? We survived an unwanted pregnancy, or maybe the unrequited love of those who gave us life.

It is never easy to answer how being adopted feels when we are still confused about our own feelings. ‘I hate my birth mom’, ‘I hate my birth father’, ‘I hate my adoptive parents’, could easily be ‘I love my birth parents and my adoptive parents’.

Everyone’s story of adoption is unique and I will never truly understand the emotions of another adoptee, and they will never truly understand mine because there are so many facets to one similar incident in all of our lives, but we are all connected by that single thread of a word –adoption.

So, here goes my story. Bear with me please.

It was a bright, sunny day in high school. My best friend and I were enjoying recess with other friends. This man comes up behind me and hands me a letter. Says that he had come by to my school several times, but failed to meet me personally since he was told to hand over the letter only to me and no one else.

My best friend and I rush to a corner wondering who sent it. The envelope is marked ‘from your biological father’. For a minute I forget what biological means. Why is my father sending me a letter at school when we are in the same house?

Into the first few paragraphs of the letter and my world comes crashing down. It was one of those moments where you feel like the world is spinning too fast and you have lost control of your mind and body.

I read only one page of the letter and I was already sobbing terribly. There was another man claiming I was his biological daughter. I don’t know why I never read the entire letter at that time, but as an adult now, I know that I didn’t want to learn the truth any further. I only remember one line from the letter I read about 15 years ago, ‘Your mother and I met when we were in college’. And I don’t know where the letter is now.

I tell my bff that we have to rush home right now and inform my parents. We skip school and sneak out. I cry all the way home and see my father sitting in the sun and reading the paper. Sobbing, I hold onto him and show him the letter. I hold onto him so tight, like someone would steal me away from him if I didn’t. He reads the letter and tries to calm me down, and hands it to my mother.

Mom immediately calls up my birth mom’s husband (she married someone else) and starts shouting at him for what his wife and her past lover had done. I heard her and I knew it was the truth. My friend leaves after a while.

By noon, my extended family arrives and they call me out of my room. They try to convince me with the lie that the man who wrote the letter is senile. He’s just playing a cruel joke, and more lies. Since they did not want to tell me the truth, I accepted the lie without any further questions.

I soon understood that the aunt who had come to visit a few weeks earlier was my birth mom. She’s my mom’s cousin. I had met her for the first time in all my 16 years of existence. It was weird to be showered with so much love from a first time visitor and she scared me with her actions -always too touchy feely and loading me with gifts.

During her stay with us, she tried to introduce me to a man. Said ‘someone wants to meet you’, but I don’t know why I said I did not want to meet him. He was just outside our gate beside a red car (I would later find out that he was my birth father).  I thought I was getting kidnapped. That’s what TV shows and articles in magazines had me believing – the ones closest to you try to harm you. In some ways, it was true at that time.

When my birth father failed to meet me that day, he sent me that letter to explain what happened between him and my birth mom.

I was never the same after that day. I cried alone in my room and came out like nothing had happened. My family acted like nothing had happened. Dad was his usual self and as usual handing me chores to do. I feel bad thinking about it, but at that time I felt that they probably wanted a maid and not a child to care for. How wrong I was. They gave me more than I could ever imagine and a million thanks would not suffice.

But things got better since I had my finals coming. I went into study mode but the incident kept haunting me so often that it was difficult concentrating. Then there was college to look forward to, but I still carried the weight of that incident; not knowing what actually happened between my birth parents that lead to my adoption.

I hated my birth father for abandoning my birth mom and me. I was grateful to my birth mom for handing me over to a loving family. My adoptive (I hate that word) parents already had two boys so I was their little angel.

Fast forward to a few years ahead. I did not let the past affect my present, or so I thought. I started dating this really nice guy around the year 2014-15. We had plans of getting married. Then comes the shocker that he’s my first cousin. My birth father had found out and told his entire family of what happened.

I went into full depression and paranoia for about 5-6 months. Every glance by a stranger had me feeling that my birth father probably is getting information from him, from her, from that person across the street, from that lady standing beside me in a shop.

Everyone who knew my story had told me that I needed to forget the past, and I did try, but the past came haunting me on its own. And I hated my birth father even more. I had always told myself that one cannot hate anyone. It’s too strong an emotion, but I hated my birth father…for the consequences his actions had brought to my life.

A few months earlier, I broke up again with another boyfriend. And I was devastated. I felt unloved. I felt that if my birth parents did not want me then why would anyone else, how could anyone else?

The thought of being abandoned and of being constantly being in the wrong relationship wanted me to end my life. It wasn’t worth living any longer. I decided I would hang myself in my rented apartment (I live alone). But maybe I didn’t want to die, I probably wanted someone to listen and learn that I was hurting terribly.

So instead of just doing it, I texted a few people I felt I had wronged. Some texted back asking what was wrong and I told them a few things.  One of my oldest guy friends was one of them. He sensed that I was acting weird and called and I didn’t pick up. He texted asking me to pick up the phone or he’d come and break down the door if that’s what he had to do. We spoke on the phone for an hour or so and I went off to sleep.

But the next day didn’t have me feeling any better and I thought enough of acting I was suicidal and not acting on it. So I went on a pill search. Since the pharmacists don’t give too many of those pills, I had to hop from one store to the other to get at least a strip worth of pills and 3 bottles of cough syrup to down the pills with, along with a bottle of vodka to make it work better.

After work (I work the late night shift), I headed home and downed everything that could go inside me and tried not to puke it out. I had already written a suicide note earlier in the day and went back to writing it. Before that, I texted that friend for the last time that I was tired of acting suicidal to gain sympathy from everyone and switched off my phone. I scribbled on my letter pad for some time. My hands stopped scribbling and my head slowly fell on the table.

Just then, my friend came with other friends and rang on the bell madly. I pushed myself to open the door and fell down on the bed I had made in the living area.

My friends started shouting at me, at times trying to calm me. But everything was a blur and I couldn’t hear a thing they were saying. I was hallucinating at the same time –seeing people who weren’t there; not seeing those who actually were.

They tried to take me to the hospital, but suicide is illegal here and I didn’t know what they would say to the doctors, so I only remember saying ‘I don’t think I took enough pills to kill myself’, and blacked out.

The next morning more friends came, and my entire body started to ache. I had survived the night but I was still extremely sleepy from all the meds and aching all over. My friends massaged me till I went off to sleep.

Everyone asked me why I did what I did, and I couldn’t tell about the affair because it was a secret but that day I realised it wasn’t the affair gone wrong that was bothering me, it was the abandonment by my birth parents.

Soon met a psychiatrist and cried my heart out when I told him everything. And for the first time, I consciously knew that it was my adoption that had troubled me for years.  Every single time something went wrong in my life, I would go back to my adoption thoughts. I knew I had to face my fears or go down that suicide road again.

So I mustered up the courage to learn about myself and reached out to my youngest half-sister. She told me what she knew through her dad. I wasn’t a secret in their house.

She told me that their father was already married with two kids when he had an affair with my birth mom. My birth mom was from another town and when she got pregnant she left for home for reasons the kids do not know well.

When my birth father learnt that I was born, he went to bring me back (I don’t know whether he went to bring my birth mom or not). My maternal grandfather placed a condition –He had to choose between his first family or my mom and me. I understand he couldn’t abandon his first family either, and there would be so much more confusion if he had kept both of them. (Polygamy is not taboo or illegal in this part of our country according to traditional laws, but times have changed and people practise it less now).

So after a few days of trying, he left and I was given away to my adoptive family in secret. My birth father never knew where I was till my birth mother came to meet me and contacted him–that was the time when I first learnt that I was adopted.

So, a few days of chatting and I decided I wanted to meet my youngest half-sister. We met while my best friend (who was there with me when I received the letter) and I were headed for a wedding. It was a short visit, and all my nerves were jittery. I thought I’d cry, but formalities took over. She was nervous too and she said it was like going on a first date. That made me smile a bit because I was super nervous. The eldest half-sister (older than me) was out of town and she had told her sister to show the pictures she has of me in her old college photo album.

I got emotional again. I wondered how they could accept me and love me when I was a reflection of their father’s faults, that I was the result of their father cheating on their mother. But I suppose they were old enough to understand that it wasn’t my fault. That I didn’t ask their dad and my birth mom to get together to have me.

To sum up the long story, I was finally at peace knowing that he came for me. That I wasn’t completely abandoned. I was at peace that the family accepted me. Not that I would go and stay with them, but rejection would’ve surely felt worse.

I still haven’t told my mom (adoptive) that I am in touch with two of my half-sisters, who have been very loving towards me. I have plans of reaching out to my birth father someday, but I am not sure about my birth mom because she has been hiding it from her children and I don’t want to create chaos in their lives.

I was received well by my half-sisters and they tell me that their mom reads my articles and tells them that I wrote something today. She too was ready to accept me, and she had even knitted a sweater for me when her husband and my birth father had gone to bring me.

Things have been going fine for the moment and I am in a better place than I was a few months ago. I am on medication for my anxiety and depression, but the doctor has seen me improve and is trying to take me off the medication slowly.

To all the adoptees in the world, life can be cruel to everyone, including non-adoptees, but the emotional trauma we suffered or are suffering can only be felt by us and no one else. I had a positive response from my half-sisters on my father’s side, but there is no guarantee that I would get the same response from my mother’s side. So I am taking life one step at a time and trying to face my fears instead of the fear feeding off of me.

I never wanted to know about my birth parents because I felt betrayed, but not knowing only ate me up from the inside. I would suggest that everyone make an attempt to reach out. If you are turned away, know that everyone has their reasons, like you do. There is nothing wrong in not wanting to raise the demons of the past, but it’s a loss for everyone involved if neither of you want to face your demons.

Iris Nova

Adult Adoptee

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