this is adoption.

When scrolling through social media, watching the morning news, or scanning over newspaper articles, stories of adoption are scattered throughout. They present an uplifting story of heroism and bravery; a story of an otherwise doomed individual who is scooped up by a savior in hopes of giving them a better life.

This isn’t adoption.

Adoption is abandonment.

Adoption would not exist without it. There is always a loss before a gain.

This fact of adoption is often forgotten, ignored or shamed. People do not want to hear a story of adoption that entails pain. It doesn’t make for a feel good story, and it doesn’t leave people feeling inspired.

But feel good doesn’t mean truth.

The adoptee always experiences abandonment. They suffer the loss of their birth family no matter what age the adoption took place. Those in the foster care system experience it every time they are shifted from home to home. Many adult adoptees have experienced it when they have been turned away from a relationship with their first families when in reunion. Some have experienced the abandonment and rejection from their own adoptive families, having been completely shut off from a relationship with them.

Adoption leaves adoptees with a life time struggle of dealing with the lasting effects that abandonment has on our psyche:

It makes you feel “un-keepable,” not worthy of someone’s time or love. It helps you build walls that even you feel like you can’t tear down. It is the best friend of anxiety and depression, complementing them with the feeling of fear of intimacy, hesitancy towards accomplishing hopes and dreams. It speaks a lie that no one will ever truly stick around, no matter how often they tell you they will never leave. It eats away at self-confidence and self-esteem, convincing you that you are never going to be good enough.

This is adoption.

This is what adoption does.

Adoption is not a greeting card; a story of pure beauty and joy. Adoption is a book with tattered and torn pages, a story of struggle and redemption, abandonment and complex emotions.

Put the greeting card back on the shelf and pick up the tattered book. Read, listen and accept. Hear the pain amongst the growth, acknowledge the loss. Remember the adoptee when a story pops up on Instagram. Remember the abandonment a child experiences when their story is splattered across the television screen. Remember that although there may be beauty and inspiration, there most certainly is pain.

Because this is adoption.


  1. I feel the exact same way. My sister Sharon does not. She says “she gave us the gift of life, just not with her.”
    Every time I see my father, I feel abandoned all over again. I write and get no response. He doesn’t call except an occasional butt dial by mistake. If my sister or I invite him to a holiday event, he just stares at me.
    I come home and cry.
    I avoid him.

    1. I can ever so relate and I am sorry that those feelings are so tough. Know that you are not alone, there are lots of us adoptees struggling with this and we can support each other. Hang in there!

  2. This is so good, Brooke. So on point. I’ve been studying a lot lately how adoptees are “over represented” in addiction statistics. I mean, really! Which population could identify more with having a lack of identity/self than us? The solution lies in what you so aptly wrote above – that we educate and get radically honest with what adoption truly means to adoptees.

  3. People say we are so amazing because we adopted. We aren’t. They tell my kids they’re extra special because they “were chosen!” And I want to ask them why? Why were they chosen? Because someone else rejected them first. That’s why. Ugh. People can be so thoughtless and near sighted.

    1. The “you were chosen” statement is so frustrating!! It’s definitely coming from people that don’t understand adoption.

  4. I couldn’t agree more. As an adopter, I take this part of the story very seriously and try really hard to make space for my eldest daughter to express those feelings of loss. She was 5 when she was removed from her birth home so the loss and trauma is something she recalls and is processing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. I really believe that that more we talk about that side of adoption and help children process those feelings and make sense of their story, the better the outcomes. I’d also add that as an adopter, I certainly wasn’t the hero in my kids’ story. They have been the heroes in mine. Thanks again for sharing.

    1. Thank you for reading, and it’s so refreshing to hear from an adopter who supports adoptees and the sharing of their stories.

  5. Our daughter has really been struggling with these issues lately. We’re good talking through it, she’s got a great counselor — but her friends just make things worse. They say all the “pretty adoption things” pushed in the media and it drives her crazy. It’s hard enough dealing with your own anger when the world says you should be happy and grateful; having the people who should have your back trigger you endlessly makes this impossible.

    1. It was and still is hard for me to have convos with others about it because they can have the “sunshine and rainbows” view of adoption. I hope your daughter can continue to find support in you guys as well as other adoptees!

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