How Does it Feel To Be Adopted? – Rosa

bosch_birdBIO: I’m an artist and writer who makes ends meet by translating. This is the first time I’ve ‘gone public’ with my adoptee experiences – and it’s soooo liberating!  If I can pluck up the courage, I’d like to write a non-fiction project on adoption and adoptee experiences. I’m lucky to have a fantastic husband and sons who aren’t freaked out by my me-ness and stick by me always.


This is so hard to write.

I’ve made so many attempts but none of them rang true. They sounded too melodramatic or victim-y and I don’t want to be a victim or come across as angry and full of rage. I am those things but I’m more than that. I’m someone who’s trying to build a life, inventing herself bit by bit, day by day.

Making it up as I go along.

I was born in a mother and baby home in London in the sixties. When I was four weeks old, my birth mother left the country, and left me behind. Two weeks later, I was adopted. My adoptive parents brought me up in the north of England.

I always knew I was adopted, which never bothered me – in fact, I think it made me feel special. My adoptive sister, three years younger, always said that she came out of mummy’s tummy. I knew that I hadn’t, and somehow that was a relief.

My sister and I didn’t have what could remotely be described as a happy childhood. Our adoptive mother was tyrannical, emotionally abusive and loveless – she was probably what the psychology textbooks would these days describe as a narcissistic personality. She dominated our adoptive father, too. They were unable to have children – she couldn’t conceive. They waited eight years to adopt, and went through countless screenings and rounds of interviews intended to make sure they’d be good parents. I suppose, looking back, that their expectations were high – they thought of me and my sister as clay they could mould.

They didn’t want us to grow into whoever we were meant to be.

We weren’t allowed to be true ourselves.

They didn’t want us for who we were.

I grew up feeling very, very anxious. I was aware when I was very young of tensions in our family. I think I even knew, very dimly, that our adoptive parents felt that my adoptive sister and I were disappointments, each in our very different ways.

I was afraid of my mother.

Our home life worsened as we grew older. I won’t get into specifics, there’s no point. My adoptive sister and I weren’t close when we were kids. I loved reading and hid in my room with my books. She escaped by spending time with her friends. When I was nine, I counted the years until I’d be old enough to leave home, and panicked – how would I survive?

I wanted to die.

I felt I was living the wrong life, in the wrong place, with the wrong people. I wanted a different life, but didn’t know what that life would be like, or how to get it. I felt helpless. Excluded. Crazy. I did a lot of negative stuff, mostly to myself. Life was bleak. I didn’t see a positive way out.

Life with my adoptive mother became impossible. One day, I found myself alone in the kitchen with her. We were screaming at each other. There was a bread knife in my hand. After that, I didn’t trust myself around her, and left home. I was seventeen.

For years, I used my anger and frustration and rage as fuel. It helped me survive, and gave me the strength not to give in to the blackness that had been dogging me all of my life. I had my first son, raised him alone until he was five, then remarried and had my second boy. The blackness has never been far away. I have to fight hard to keep it from sucking me down. But, over the years, the battle got easier. When my youngest son was born, I started working from home and that was good – I had my family and our little apartment.

I had my world.

It was at this point, as my life became more stable and structured, that I decided to find my birth parents. I’d always known their names – they were on forms I had from the adoption agency. Of course, as a child I’d always wondered about who they were, and fantasised about how my life could have been if I’d stayed with my biological family, but back then, there was so much red tape that searching for them was too difficult. But times changed and by the mid-nineties, finding people had become a lot simpler. The search took some time (neither of my birth parents are British nationals), but I found them both, with the help of a family finder, and the Salvation Army. The search was filled with joy and excitement and trepidation. In order to get hold of my adoption records I’d had to see a therapist, and we’d talked about finding my parents.

But nothing prepared me for what was to come.

I won’t go into details because I can’t – it’s too confrontational and I don’t think I’ve come to terms with what happened yet. Finding my birth parents taught me so much. It made me realise that much of the self-sabotage and self-loathing – what I call ‘the blackness’ – wasn’t something that slowly evolved as I grew up. It had been a part of me from the beginning – from birth – maybe even before.

My adoptive mother always said I was a ‘good’ baby. I never cried. Now, I know that I didn’t cry because I knew there was no point in crying: no one would hear or if they did, they wouldn’t come. I discovered that my birth mother could have kept me – an old boyfriend was still in love with her and wanted to marry her and raise me as his own. But that wasn’t what she chose. I have a photograph somewhere of my birth mother holding me. I’m probably three or four weeks old, and I’m staring into her face while she holds me, at arm’s length, as though I’m something alien and vaguely distasteful. What struck me most is my expression – I look as though I’m pleading with her not to leave me.

When I did finally meet my birth mother, there wasn’t much of a happy reunion. Though she may not have been aware of it, I think my mother agreed to be in touch with me in the hope that I’d help her re-establish contact with my father. Which is, in fact, what she asked me to do. My mother didn’t seem to connect with me, the person, the woman. I felt that I didn’t really exist to her except, perhaps, as a means to an end – seeing my father.

I think now that the blackness I carry about with me comes from my mother, or partly at least. It was her gift. She shared a piece of her own shadow with me. Sitting next to her the first time, I was overwhelmed by a feeling, welling up deep inside – a nausea, almost verging on a kind of horror, that I’d once been inside that woman’s body. And this is the point – when I think about her – that things get really, really bad for me, and I have to shut those thoughts away.

So far, I have managed to survive. And I’ve done more than survive – I’ve had many times when I’ve felt really and truly alive. But many times when I felt I was existing and not much else.

My adoptive parents died recently. Now that they’re gone, things have changed. I’ve changed – not hugely, but I feel I’m able to define my boundaries better. Part of that means deciding I am a person with no parents. I haven’t seen my birth parents for years and don’t intend to for the foreseeable future. Growing up, I craved a sense of belonging.

I wanted love.


A heritage.

But I can’t find those things in other people. I am who I am and I need to accept that – to accept that I am enough.

I still don’t understand life or my role in it. I have no faith in the world. I feel as though a vile and cruel joke has been played on me. But I don’t want to be a victim. I don’t want adoption and everything that goes with it, to define my life.

Through forums and sites, I’ve come to realise that I probably have C-PTSD. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Is it a relief because I’ve found a ‘diagnosis’? Or simply another terrible burden or way to recast myself as a victim? Every time I dig into stuff relating to adoption, I unearth yet another ‘surprise’.

What else is hiding?

I try to keep digging, keep pushing forward. Maybe one day I’ll drag the blackness out into the light and it watch it burn to nothing in the sun. But I don’t think so. I know that I’ve come a long way. But the blackness is still here, probably for good. I try to accept it. It’s real, it won’t go away. I’ve managed to get this far. I’ve survived. And every day, I’m learning to survive better.

By Rosa

Adult Adoptee

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9 thoughts on “How Does it Feel To Be Adopted? – Rosa

  1. One paragraph hit me like a ton of bricks. :My adoptive parents died recently. Now that they’re gone, things have changed. I’ve changed – not hugely, but I feel I’m able to define my boundaries better. Part of that means deciding I am a person with no parents. I haven’t seen my birth parents for years and don’t intend to for the foreseeable future. Growing up, I craved a sense of belonging.” This is exactly my life, too. Afather died de to alcohol in 2001, and the adoptress in 2012. It was so freeing to never have to hear from or see them. It made me realize, I never had parents, nor will I ever. And that is sadness…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rosa, I admire what you wrote and how you really dug deep to reveal the unvarnished truth about meeting your birth mother and how it was not a pleasant experience. I had a very similar, unwelcoming experience where one of the first things my BM said to me had to do with what I thought about my birth father. (I had met him only after she’d refused to meet or correspond to me. Only after she knew I’d met him did she agree to meet me.) I applaud you sharing your feelings so eloquently.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you so much Aimee and Juliet. Your comments mean a lot. I strongly believe that, as adoptees, we need to find a language to talk about our experiences, so that our words can inspire understanding, empathy and, ultimately, change. I hope adoptees can become a strong community, a united group. Many other communities have evolved strategies to articulate their experiences, truths and needs, and it’s time for adoptees to become empowered and transform their experiences into strengths. Hugs to you both, and to all our brothers and sisters. We are family. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is really good. I think you have to be narcissistic to adopt a baby. There is something wrong with pretending another woman’s baby is your child.
    There is also something wrong with giving away your baby. So we are definitely traumatized. Even with a “good” adoption.
    I have the blackness too, and have found happiness with my own family, husband and children.
    I can’t really ever get over the wounds of the past, they are part of me.


  5. I can wholeheartedly relate to your story honey.. Mine is somewhat sililar, but of course totally different too. I searched for my people for many years. Finally found them all.. Talk about one hell of a crazy ride??!! Anyway, they have both passed on since then. Just when we were beginning to build relationships with both of them(separately)..Their is so much to tell, but its just too much, and it brings pain to the surface to be felt once again. I would love to share more, for I care…..thank you✌

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Marylee and Anonymous. I hope we can all find peace in our hearts. I’ve felt so angry, and so disappointed in myself for so long but the deeper I dig into adoption, and the more adoptee stories I read, the more I see similar patterns. None of this was our fault. We were born, we were helpless, and the system stepped in. And, in many cases, we’re at the mercy of aparents – the system doesn’t seem to care what happens once we’ve been placed with our ‘forever’ family. We need to be acknowledged as a group – we are disenfranchised, and our human rights have been tossed aside. Adoption needs to be examined publicly, and the system radically reformed.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing your truth about adoption. I was adopted as well and it is exhausting to carry the dark load somedays especially. Today was the day 47 years ago that I got my name and adopted. Just like that… at 10 weeks old. And my body remembered because I was truly dragging today…. wierd to think I had not been outside much or even a name for so long… its like I was left to die… and instead got a new start over to be someone else. I should feel grateful but its more of a sad… and exhausted snd lack of control.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Michelle, it is exhausting… it’s a huge weight that’s really hard to talk about or even find the words for. The way you describe – ‘its like I was left to die…’ I totally get it. You’re right. We were pushed aside, out of sight, out of mind. And our aparents were told we were blank slates, that we could be the children they couldn’t have, and even though they may have genuinely tried to love us, no one realised the pain that we’d gone through. Part of us was cut off when we were taken from our mothers – I suppose that’s the primal wound. But no one understood what had happened, and how deep and terrible the wound was. I truly believe that we can move forward and towards wholeness and healing if we just acknowledge our wound – it wasn’t our fault, we shouldn’t hate ourselves or be ashamed – we need to see the wound for what it is. It is a dark load. But maybe by acknowledging it we can turn it into a strength. We are strong, we’re powerful – we must be if we’ve come this far. I wish you light and energy and blessings and hope that this day won’t hurt too much. Your comment – and the other comments I’ve read, as well as the stories of other adoptees – made my load a little lighter. Thank you so much for that!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I know I am late to the party, but I wanted to thank you for writing this. In a lot of ways it felt like I was reading my own story. It is comforting to know that I am not alone. And maybe I wont ever really heal, but at least I can keep growing, eventually blooming into something- just not sure what yet.

    Liked by 1 person

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