Natasha was adopted internationally as a child. Now an adult, she shares her personal perspective on the sensitivities adoptees can feel when asked about personal details associated with one’s adoption story.
"I wish I can find and connect with my biological family. I wish I knew my background. I wish I knew my health history."
"I wish I knew why my parents left me. I wish I was never adopted. I wish I could relate to someone. I wish I could blend in and not stand out. I wish kids would stop making jokes about adoption."
"I wish my adoptive parents will listen and understand me. I wish people would stop asking me personal questions. I wish someone would love me for me."
"I wish my adoptive parents knew how much they mean to me, how much I am thankful for them, and how much I love them."
One or more of these phrases come across adoptees’ minds. And sometimes, it's the reality of how we feel. We do have so many mixed emotions about our adoption. For some, it is happy. For others, it is sad. I love hearing stories from other adoptees because it opens my eyes to the reality that not every story is a happy story.
No, you don't have to walk on eggshells around adoptees, but be considerate of their story. Every adoptee has a different perspective of their own story, so please don't assume their story is just like the one you heard before.
People need to be concerned about choices of words that are used when asking adoptees questions. For example, when referring to biological or real family versus adoptive family. For me, I don't like it when people say my birth family is my real family. That has happened to me several times. I just tell them my parents do live around here and whatever their question was. I don't call them my adoptive parents because they're my parents. Period.
The same goes for my siblings. There's my biological brother, but there are also my two younger siblings, who are not biological to me. But they are my siblings. Period. I don't separate them into step, adopted or anything else. I understand that sometimes the best words for people to understand are the simplest. So if “real” is better understood than “biological,” I don't take offense to it, but I eliminate the word “real” from my replies because I choose the other words instead.
Be mindful of the types of questions you ask. And don't be offended when adoptees don't want to tell you the answer or their life story. It is their personal choice.
One time when my family was introducing me to extended family and friends, there was an individual who kept asking about my history. My parents had to tell them several times that when we are ready to share we will so stop asking questions.
Be cautious about adoptees’ feelings. They might not know how to deal with their feelings about adoption, or their past, or are not in a place to answer any questions at this time. Some adoptees love to share their story, like me, but some don't and that's OK. Some adoptees don't even want to mention they are adopted because they don't want to feel any different.