To My Next Romantic Partner: I Need You to Know that I’m Adopted.
Dear Future Partner,
I need to tell you that I’m adopted.
It will come up sooner than you think. You may ask me if I have any siblings. “Well, I was raised as an only child, but I have four biological siblings,” I’ll say, if I’m telling you the truth and I want to go there. You may make a comment that assumes I’m genetically related to my parents, like a lot of people mistakenly do. I’ll correct you…and tell you that that’s actually not true, because I’m adopted. So, let’s talk about it now.
When I tell you, you might ask, “How old were you when you were adopted?” Three months is the answer. “Oh, so you were just a baby!” you might respond. It’s harmless, a lot of people say this. This kind of reply is based on the mistaken belief many people have that goes something like “If you don’t remember it, it doesn’t affect you.” I feel like some people believe that once the papers are signed, families skip off into the sunset with their adopted child(ren), and live happily ever after. Yes, it is absolutely true that adoption is an amazing, wonderful thing, but allow me to share with you a beautiful quote about this. Nancy Verrier, author of The Primal Wound says, “The problem with all of this rhetoric is that everyone is forgetting something: the adoptee was there. The child actually experienced being left alone by the biological mother and being handed over to strangers.”
So, for me, what does this whole adoption thing mean? And what does it mean for you?
It means that the first relationship I ever forged in this world was severed before my brain was developed enough to encode explicit memories of it, but parts of my nervous system remember it vividly. (Do you study neuroscience, future partner?) It means that the woman who I bonded with in utero for nine months — the woman who I depended on for survival — she left me, and she never came back. My adult brain knows why. Adult me knows that she was fifteen and wanted a better life for me than the one she could provide. Adult Cam knows there are other choices she could have made that would have meant I wouldn’t be sitting here writing you this letter right now. Adult me is grateful for her decision. But baby me was abandoned.
For you, it means you should know that “abandonment” is still a thing for me. It means that I will look for the ways you are leaving or rejecting me before I will look for the ways that you want me. It means that I am absolutely terrified of attaching to you…to anyone, really. It means that trusting you, letting you in, is a huge process for me. Don’t even get me started on the other things that would mean bonding with you…marriage, kids? I’ll brush them off like I don’t care about them. Actually, they just scare the living sh*t out of me because that kind of longevity in any relationship is nothing I’ve ever known before. It means you have to go slow with the other things that may make me get close to you. It means that you can’t throw around cliche romantic phrases like “I’m not going anywhere” and “I’ll love you forever.”
But you know what else? It means that if I do let you in, if I do begin to trust you, if you keep showing up — over, and over, and over again — if you do get through my resistance, I will love you fiercely and loyally. If you say to me, “I don’t know what it’s like to be adopted, what’s that like for you?” and if you stop to actually listen and understand, well, then I might tell you the rest of my story, and this thing might actually go somewhere.
Note: Everyone’s story and experience of adoption is different, and this is just a small facet of mine.