by Maggie Walker
**Below are the continued stories of adoptees from the article “Adoptees share perspectives on
Gaby Bush was adopted from Guatemala as a baby.
When she was four years old, she went back to Guatemala with her mom to adopt her younger brother. She doesn’t remember a lot of the trip because she was too young, but she got another opportunity to go back on a Cedarville mission trip. During the mission trip, Bush found and met her biological family.
Bush and her mother prayed a lot before deciding to meet her biological family. Bush recalled feeling nervous and excited when the meeting came closer. When she met her family, Bush felt relieved.
“It was more emotional for them because I was a baby when I was adopted,” Bush said.“I didn’t know who they were.”
Bush met her biological parents and older brother during that trip to Guatemala. Her brother was especially relieved to see her.
“From what he said, he knew me when I was younger before I was adopted,” Bush said. “But then my birth mother took me to get adopted, and he didn’t know that was happening. So he never got to say goodbye. So seeing me was a sense of relief for him and he was able to close that door, knowing what happened to me.”
Bush remarked that being a transracial adoptee wasn’t part of her identity that she thought about. Her adoptive mother made sure she and her brother always knew they were adopted, but Bush grew up thinking that she was no different than her parents.
“For the majority of my life, I just thought of myself as tan, not really from another country. The main question I always got was if I could speak Spanish; I can’t.” Bush said. “The only complication, where I felt identity loss, was not being able to speak Spanish. I always wanted to communicate with others, but I was never able to fully grasp that language.”
Bush’s background as an adoptee has given her the opportunity to connect with other adoptees. Instead of seeing it as something that sets her apart from others, she sees it as an opportunity to connect with people in similar situations.
“I know being an adoptee has helped create conversations with other adoptees, and opening up with them about what their journeys are,” Bush said. “I think that’s a cool way of the Lord showing a small community through our similar backgrounds.”
*A pseudonym is used for the adoptee, who wished to remain anonymous.
Grace was adopted from the Hunan province of China at age 13, a few days before aging out of the adoption system. Not much is known about what happens to children who age out. Several studies have been done and most show unfavorable futures for the children who stayed in the system. Grace sees her adoption as a gift from God, and an unexpected one at that.
As an older child, Grace wasn’t expecting to be adopted. She remembers being surprised and nervous, not sure what to expect or how she would adjust. After being adopted and coming to live in the states, Grace found it extremely difficult. She grew up in a different environment, spoke a different language and knew an entirely different culture.
“It was weird because you’re going home with someone you’ve never met or known. It’s really hard to learn a different language and get used to all the food and culture here. I had a hard time adjusting at first, but I did,” Grace said. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me, when they first adopted me, I didn’t want to communicate because I was not adjusting very well. So I didn’t want to talk to them; I would have a meltdown every day for no reason, and then I wouldn’t communicate with them.”
But Grace persisted through the difficult transition, she even attended a public school where she had to learn English. While Grace tried to adjust to life in America, her parents tried to adjust their lives to make her feel more comfortable.
Grace has two siblings also adopted from China, so Grace’s parents make an effort to incorporate their children’s culture into their own. One way was incorporating foods from China into their meals.
“We eat a lot of rice in China, so my mom tries to have rice twice a week as a meal so we can adjust. We also eat a lot of spices and she tried to keep those spices around,” Grace said. “She’d take us to Asian stores to buy food we like to eat. She does research, she took a Mandarin class and classes about the culture before she adopted us just so she knows.”
Whether she belonged was another struggle Grace experienced after her adoption. Since she spent so much time in her culture of origin, she sometimes felt as if she didn’t belong with her adopted family.
“When I was first adopted, I wasn’t sure what I thought. There were times when I wondered if I wasn’t part of the family,?” Grace said. “But now I think adoption is one of the best things and more people should adopt. Your family doesn’t have to be related by blood. If they’re your family, then they’re your family.”
The biggest assumption Grace and her family faced is people think that there is a rift between Grace and her siblings.
“People assume when you adopt kids and have kids of your own that they won’t get along or will dislike each other,” Grace said. “Sometimes that is the case, but not all the time. In my family, they definitely get along. People ask my parents how many kids they have, and they’ll say 9. And then they’ll be like, ‘How many are really yours?’ And then they’ll be like, ‘They’re all my kids.’ Just because we’re adopted doesn’t mean we’re not their kids. They hate to be asked that question.”
Grace’s parents involved their children in adoption decisions, asking their biological daughter if it was OK to adopt a child who would be older than her, and asking Grace if it was alright to adopt more children. Grace now has many siblings, some adopted and others biological, but she never considers them anything other than family.
Kate Suarez was adopted from the Sichuan province of China at 11 months.
“Being adopted hasn’t been a huge struggle for me, it is part of who I am. I am an adoptee,” Suarez said. “But it’s not like if someone asked me, ‘What makes you who you are?’ I would say, ‘Well I’m a Christian, and I was homeschooled.’”
For Suarez, growing up as an adoptee wasn’t weird for her. There were moments when she was confused about her identity, especially with her appearance.
“I loved Cinderella, and in my little 5-year-old mind, I looked exactly like her, with blonde hair and blue eyes. And then when I turned seven, I looked in a mirror once and it’s like ‘Huh, I look a lot different than I imagined,” Suarez said.
As Suarez noted, adoptees and their parents often bear unmistakable differences in appearance. Ethnicity and skin tone shouldn’t affect how a family loves and respects each other, but unfortunately, the world is not always so understanding.
While being an adoptee isn’t something Suarez considers one of the biggest factors in her identity overall, she admits the most comfortable people to be around for her are other Chinese Americans.
“I feel like I connect with them better to an extent. Like, ‘Oh, you’re one of me, and I’m one of you’,” Suarez said. “They’re also usually adopted into Christian families, and they’re also homeschooled which is so funny. So, we have three things to connect on there. Our relationship with God, our homeschooling experience, and deeper feelings that might have been caused by adoption, like feelings of the fear of abandonment, which I’m not sure if that’s something specific to adoptees or just general. Does everyone fear abandonment or do we just feel it more acutely?”
The most common assumption Suarez runs into is people think she speaks Chinese first and speaks English as a second language.
“People come up to me and say, ‘You have great English.’ And the first time someone said that to me I thought they meant I had good English. And it took me a couple of months later to realize that they just thought that English was not my first language,” Suarez said.
“The biggest thing I’ve strongly felt about being adopted is wondering where my mom is,” Suarez said. “I wonder where she is, she even left me a note once like, ‘I hope you do well in your new life in the future.’ I still have it somewhere, and she left me half of a jade bracelet, and I’m assuming she has the other half. So I’m guessing the one thing I really want to do is go back and see her. And that’s something I feel is different for every adoptee.”
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Adoptees may struggle with the significance of their culture of origin on their lives today, and they may need years to come to terms with it. Each story was different because each adoptee came to a different answer about how important their background was to them. Whether they came to the decision on their own, or with the support of their adopted families, these are stories worth telling.
Maggie Walker is a senior Political Science major and hopes to attend law school after graduation. She enjoys exploring art museums and trying new foods, being part of the MISO officer team, working out, and listening to the same song until nauseous.