I haven’t been more excited about a guest post! I’m honored to share my friend January’s words on adoption. She has a beautiful heart and spends her days serving as a nurse at the University of Iowa. January was adopted from the Philippines at 1.5 years old, and she’s generously is sharing her perspective and thoughts on adoption. (January and I have been friends since we were seven years old and she was the maid of honor in my wedding, so full disclosure: I love this lady!)
When Jonny and I started researching adoption, January was one of the first people I talked with. I believe it’s incredibly important to hear perspectives from adults who were adopted. I asked January to share the good, the bad, and the ugly for National Adoption Month. I just asked her to share what was on her heart — not what she thought I wanted to hear, not what she thought others wanted to hear — just to share. I’m thankful that she’s sharing her story. Each adoption story and each adoptee’s experience and story is so different, and this this is January’s.
I could talk about adoption forever. I don’t think it’d ever bother me. Some people have built up ideas that adopted kids don’t have a place in the world, but I don’t feel that way.
When I’m caring for patients, they ask me all the time: Where are you from? You sound so American. You don’t have an accent. I answer, I’m from Iowa. And they’re like…oh. And then I tell them that I’m adopted.
On Inappropriate Comments:
Adoption is all I’ve ever known. I hear people say you should be thankful and your parents should be thankful. Just because someone might have biological parents doesn’t mean they’re good parents, just because someone might have adoptive parents doesn’t mean they’re good parents, either. I was fortunate to be in a family that loved me unconditionally — not everyone can say that, adopted or not. I don’t know anything different.
I think some people are uninformed. As someone who is adopted, you have to explain it in a way, and that can be tricky. I don’t think people ask inappropriate questions, but rather have an inappropriate tone. One time someone said, You must be really resilient because you’re adopted. I was like, What does that mean? Keep that to yourself. I’m not offended because I’m adopted, I think a lot of times people don’t know what they’re saying — I just have to take it with a grain of salt.
I also get the question: What are you? Um, I’m human. When you’re transracially adopted, I feel like you have to have a thicker skin to understand the world.
My parents told me: No matter what people say about you, no matter what misconceptions they may have — never let them make you feel not much as ours as a biological kid. That’s not the way this works. Because of that, I never felt insecure. Ever.
On Talking About Adoption With Parents:
My parents didn’t make me feel out of place. I had a good connection where we all felt very secure. My parents always told us that we might not look alike (my brothers and I don’t look like our parents or each other), but it doesn’t matter what you look like, what your hair looks like, what your skin looks like. What matters is love.
I remember when they sat me down about my sister. My mom was pregnant at a later age and there was a chance the baby would be born with a disability. My parents sat me down and said, if your sister has a disability, we’ll love her disability, and we’ll love her. We’re family. I’m also extremely close to my brothers. They’re not biological, but it feels that way. It’s all I know. Growing up, we relied on each other. That’s what family is — you rely on the people you’re with. Even though I’m from the Philippines and my brother is from China, we’re siblings. I feel very fortunate. I know not everyone feels that way.
Advice for Adoptive Parents:
You need to teach your kids your family values. Adoption is another way to let someone in your family. There’s so much information on the Internet and all different types of media. Do the research about adoption. Be really be well-educated and informed. There’s also a lot of mis-information and falsified information — get to the source.
Make sure that if you go through adoption, teach your kids quickly and early — give them their base. I was given a good base and built off of that foundation. My parents taught me what was important — loving people unconditionally whether they look like you or not. Kids are way smarter than we think. Start talking about it young. David doesn’t look like Daniel but they’re still brothers and they love each other. The world will try to change their perspective when they’re older.
Biggest Misconception About Adoption:
I think the big misconception is that your parents can’t love you as much because you’re adopted. Growing up, children asked me if my parents didn’t love me because I was put up for adoption. They’d ask me if my parents loved me less. I’d say: No. They take care of me and love me just the way your parents love you. I think kids don’t know about adoption, and kids who aren’t adopted don’t know what it means…and their parents don’t inform them.
Advice for Children Who Were Adopted:
I’d tell them the same thing my parents told me and what I hope their parents tell them: You’re not different. People are people across the world. Philippines, Russia, USA — adoption goes across all countries. It doesn’t make you any different. The idea is that you’re becoming part of a family and someone wanted that. But your validation should be internal. as you get older, people will ask you more about adoption. By being open, you will see that they might ask things because they just don’t know. Apply that base your parents gave you to people you don’t know.
On Being a Transracial Family:
My brothers and I would always say that we we’re a melting pot of a family. We have a lot of different looks, but we’re still a unit. My brothers have dated all races and one brother married a woman who grew up in Europe. I think it just shows there aren’t boundaries about being accepting of other races within family or marriage. We were raised to be very accepting, whether we look alike or not.
On Identity, Heritage, and Biological Family:
I feel like in the last couple years, I’ve had to reflect on this stuff a little more. I still go back to what my parents reminding me that they’d love me no matter what, biological or not. My siblings and I have talked about researching biological parents. I just haven’t. I”m just not there yet, maybe. My parents have asked me what I thought about my brothers being interested in searching for biological family. I said they’re adults and that’s their choice — it’s just not something that has come into my mind.
I’m a very Iowan, Midwest girl. People say, Filipino food is so good! I’m like: Guess what’s better? Corn! I guess I carry characteristics from the Midwest.
We’ve talked about going on a trip someday, just to see where we came from. I had a closed adoption. My biological mom was really young and couldn’t keep me. I don’t know a ton of details. They have a picture book. I don’t feel like I’d look up birth parents, but we could look up the agency. The one thing I wish I knew more about is medical history. I have no idea if something will happen to me. When I get sick, I have no history to look at to know if I could get something chronically. Medical history. That’s kind of scary. But other than that, I honestly forget I’m adopted sometimes.
January’s guest post is part of National Adoption Month. Later this week, my friend Zach will be sharing his experience of being domestically adopted and his journey to meet his birth parents. My friend Kristen, who adopted two preschool-age children from Uganda and a newborn through domestic adoption, will be sharing as well. You can read my friend Kaia’s post about adoption through foster care here. For words from an adoption family therapist, check out Rachel’s moving guest post. This week, I’ll be closing up National Adoption Month with a giveaway of Mary Ostyn’s “Forever Mom” (multiple copies!) and Sara Hagerty’s “Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.”