Adoption is a foreign country (2)

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Jeanette Winterson, insightfully sums up the disconnect adoptees carry through their lives in her book, Why be happy, when you could be normal? “Adopted children are self-invented because we have to be; there is an absence, a void, a question mark at the very beginning of our lives. A crucial part of our story is gone, and violently, like a bomb in a womb.

“The baby explodes into an unknown world that is only knowable through some kind of story—of course that is how we all live, it's the narrative of our lives, but adoption drops you into the story after it has started. It's like reading a book with the first few pages missing. It's like arriving after curtain up. The feeling that something is missing never, ever leaves you—and it can't, and it shouldn't, because something is missing.”

We are back in the foreign country … where things are done differently … where we are treated differently. Our passports, abridged birth certificates, often stamped ‘Not for Official Use’, provide a legal identity but no clear self-identity. Were we ever born? There is the distance of having left our birthrights and families behind … there is no return to ‘home’ country. People speak a different language, reflected through facial recognition and the innate behaviours of kin—our sense of likeness or the natural rhythms of connectedness have to be learnt. In this foreign country our hosts are unsure how to engage or respond to us. “I’m adopted”, doesn’t open easy conversations it tends to close them. Like chameleons we adapt in order to survive—the spectre of further losses ever near.


“I’m adopted”, doesn’t open easy conversations it tends to close them.