Lessons Learned So Far

So I’ve been writing my column for a few months now, and I’ve learned so much more about the many complex layers of international adoption from both an adoptees’s point of view and, as you will see in my next article (soon to be posted), the adoptive parents’ perspective.

While it would be easy and dangerous to make generalizations, there have been some commonalities among my interviewees (so far) that I cannot deny:

  • It is hard for some adoptees to accept the fact that their birth parents gave them away. One adoptee I interviewed (Greg), was realistic about the situation and acknowledged that yes, he was perhaps too different for Vietnamese society at the time, being half Vietnamese and half white during the Vietnam War. But he still struggled with accepting the fact that his birth mother chose not to keep him although she kept his other biological siblings. Compare that to the other adoptee I have interviewed so far (Tim), who somehow felt he was to blame for being abandoned by his birth family. He wondered what was wrong with him to make someone want to do that, especially now that he is a father and cannot imagine giving up his son for adoption, no matter how hard things could get.
  • Despite these questions that might never be answered, both men acknowledged that had they not been adopted, life would have been extremely difficult for them. One (Greg) even went as far as to say that had he not been adopted, he would have ended up a criminal or dead had he stayed in Vietnam. Coincidentally, each man has excelled in life as an international adoptee, and I would like to think that their birth parents would be happy to know this.
  • And from my latest interview, which will be published soon, I have learned that adoption is not always a consolation prize for not being able to conceive. (Well, I already knew this based on how my own family was built with me being adopted and not my brother, but the last interview I conducted just reaffirmed it all.) Believe it or not, there are couples out there who want to build their families through birth and adoption, and just because they adopt, it doesn’t mean they have struggled with fertility issues. Realizing this, I question why it is so hard for society overall to believe that there are people out there who actively choose to have a blended family through birth and adoption. Why is there this assumption that a couple chooses to adopt because they can’t have kids “of their own?”

I look forward to learning more lessons as my journey in this world continues. On deck for my September column is the topic of international adoptee activism — a movement among adoptees that is responsible for major international adoption legislation in some countries — for better or for worse depending on whose perspective you can relate to. And October’s column will focus on some of the psychological issues involved in being an internationally adopted child — another topic not commonly discussed.

If there is one thing I can take-away from this experience ever since I delved into this world, it is that international adoption has so many aspects to it and so many players: birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptees, non-adopted siblings of adoptees, social workers, foreign governments, etc. It’s both a small and big world, and it’s full of so many questions, stories and experiences — I’m just grateful to have a part in collecting people’s stories.

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