What adoption meant for me! An adopted adult’s story.

As part of National Adoption Week, we spoke to Rebecca who is an adopted adult. Rebecca reflects on her life story, shares her feelings of adoption, and gives her views on some of the things prospective adopters need to know. Here’s what she had to say:

How old were you when you were adopted?

My parents adopted me from birth. They were working in Malaysia, and expressed an interest in adoption because they thought they could not have children. My birth mother had informed the hospital that she wished to relinquish me at birth and she left the hospital soon after giving birth to me. So I was placed with my parents when I was 2 days old.

When did you find out that you were adopted, and were your parents openly discussing adoption and sharing information with you?

I’m Chinese Malay and my parents are both Welsh, so I’ve always known that I was adopted. It was something that we always discussed, and it was never hidden from me. I know they didn’t have any choice but to tell me as I clearly didn’t look like their biological child. However, I think that always knowing was a positive thing. It meant that, it wasn’t a shock finding out, I grew up knowing that my parents chose me to be their child and because my parents always shared as much information as they could, I never felt that it was a taboo subject. I learnt that my birth father had passed away in a motorbike crash, but there was never much information about my birth mother. I know she was 16 having me, and I’d like to think, that her age led to her decision that she could not care for me.

What did it feel like as a child being adopted?

As I didn’t look like my adoptive parents, this inevitably marked me out as different. This was even more evident when my younger sister, who is their biological child was born two years later. However, they never made me feel that I was anything other than their first daughter because they treated me exactly the same as my sister in terms of love and telling me off!

Naturally and perhaps even more poignant for me because of my ethnicity, I went through the phase of wondering if I looked like my birth mother or father, whether I had any brothers and sisters or whether I was good at something because my mother or father were. However, wondering about these things didn’t mean I loved my adoptive parents any less or indeed that they were less important to me. I recognised as I was growing up and perhaps even more so as an adult that it is their love and commitment that has formed me into the adult that I am, given me the opportunity to formulate the principles that are important to me and given me the foundation and drive to pursue what I have achieved.

Was your experience of adoption positive?

Most definitely. I know it might sound strange but being adopted is something I’m very proud of. My parents gave me permanence, and whatever reasons my birth mother had for giving me up, I know that it has given me opportunities I would not have had if I had remained with her.

However, I appreciate that I have had a very positive experience and that is not the case for everyone. I have met other adoptees and their stories haven’t been as positive as mine and I know adoptive parents who have gone through difficult times with their adoptive child but to be honest I think that parenting is a difficult job whether you are the parent of an adopted or biological child. So  ultimately it boils down to, all you can do as a parent is to provide a positive, loving and healthy environment for your child to meet their potential and become whoever it is that they will be.

My parents did that for me and my childhood was full of rebelliousness (on my part) and arguments but a whole lot of laughter and much love too and for me the difficulties we faced have as much shaped my experience being a positive one as all the laughter and good times. As it was the process of working through the difficult times that sometimes proves to us as children, that despite us being difficult and annoying you still love us.

What are your greatest achievements?

I am proud of the achievements I have made in terms of my career, and that I had the opportunity to go to university, but for me my greatest achievement is my family.

My mum and dad provided us with amazing opportunities whilst we were growing up, my sister and I travelled around the world with them and we had some great experiences and some truly harrowing ones like being stuck out in the Iraq/Iran war and the Gulf War. Both my parents coming from Llandeilo meant that we settled back in Wales when I was in my early teens. My mum sadly passed away when I was in my 30’s but my father, who is nearly 80 has a really close relationship with my son and they are both football mad. My husband, being Welsh is more a rugby fan but seeing the three of them going off in the car on a weekend to watch my son play football really does give me the best feeling. When I have my sister, her husband, my two nephews and niece who I absolutely adore and their black Labrador and my dad come over on a weekend,  it’s a mad house but when we all get together, and I watch my family laughing around our table, clichéd as it sounds I know that this is my greatest achievement.

Have you had contact with any siblings/birth family?

As I was adopted abroad and in the 70’s it would not be as easy to get in touch with my birth family as it might be for children adopted more recently. However, I’ve never felt the need to go looking for my birth family. For me, it simply wasn’t something that I have had a strong urge to do. I thought this might change when I had my own child, but now I finally have someone in the world who looks like me I feel even less inclined to seek out my biological family.

I do sometimes wonder whether my mum thinks about me on my birthday, whether I have brothers or sisters and if I look like or have characteristics of either of my parents but I think this is something that all adoptive children will naturally consider at some point in their lives. Just as biological children often wonder if they look more like their father or their mother or have any of their attributes. However, having discussed it with some of my other friends who are adopted and have sought out their biological family, the need to find our biological families is individual and not necessarily a barometer of the how they feel about their adoptive family. I know my adoptive family would have been fully supportive if I wanted to explore this and the safety of knowing I would have their support and was able to do this with their blessing makes me love them even more.

As an adopted person yourself, what advice would you give to prospective adopters? What do you think they’d need to know, to support an adopted child?

Every child is different. However, I feel that it is important to be open and honest and to share their child’s life story with them. I don’t think adopters should worry about their child’s history, it’s a part of who they are, and they should share the information with them (in an age-appropriate way), when the time is right.

I was naturally curious about my birth family, and because my parents shared what they knew, which wasn’t very much, it’s something that I grew up knowing and it was not a shock or big secret. My parent’s openness helped me to understand my history and allowed me to accept why I was adopted. As a child I did not realise how distressing the experience was for them until recently, when my dad explained how scared they both were that up until the point the papers were signed and the adoption order was made, my mother could have asked for me back.

Talking about the fact that your child is adopted with them and showing them that you are comfortable answering questions about birth family or indeed any other queries they might have, will mean they feel they can be open with you. It will also reassure them that it is not a subject you do not want to discuss with them. Even if it is hard for you. I felt I could and wanted to discuss being adopted with my mum and dad because they were my safe place and it laid good foundations for us being able to work out lots of complicated and challenging issues that did not have anything to do with being adopted.

If Rebecca’s story has inspired you to consider adoption as a means of starting or expanding your family, then please contact us. https://adoptionmwwales.org.uk/contact-us/

We need adopters from a variety of backgrounds so we can place children with families and individuals who share their own culture, language, and religion, and many people now decide to start a family later in life.

We are interested in what you can bring to a child’s life. Ultimately it is your capacity to make a commitment to providing a loving and permanent home to a child which makes a difference.

There are many reasons why people think they are not eligible to adopt, but here are some of the myths that surround adoption. https://adoptionmwwales.org.uk/adoption-myths/