Friday, October 22, 2010

Missing Pieces

I've heard people say recently that they didn't understand why adoptees have a need to find their original family. "They have a family, why do they need to know about the other one?" I don't understand what they don't understand about that.

I look a lot like my mother - and I mean a lot. I've had total strangers come up to me and ask if I'm related to Jo because I'm wearing her face. There was never any question where I got my curly hair from. My youngest daughter knows she has my eyes and my grandmother's nose. My son has my eyes and his father's mouth. These are things we take for granted. There's other beings in the world who when we look at them we see a piece of ourselves looking back.

When I talked to my oldest daughter - the one I found - about this issue she said that she always felt like she had a family, she loves them and they love her too but she felt she wasn't really them. There was always a piece of her missing. This is what the rest of the world, the people who don't live in that skin, don't get. Although I haven't lived her experience I can certainly understand the part about the missing piece. There's absolutely nothing unusual about her experience from what I've read. Adoptees all over the world feel the same way no matter how loving a home they ended up in. They're not only missing a piece of themselves but if they never find their natural family then they never know the true nature of who they are. Physical appearance characteristics aren't the only thing that gets passed down through generations. Seeing my oldest child with her siblings for the first time was proof enough of that. Watching the 2 girls using the same gestures, sitting in matching positions, using their voices the same way, seeing the connection between all of them that was practically instantaneous told me that the biology of family is huge.

And, of course, you have the medical issues. Every time an adoptee goes to the doctor and has to fill out a form for medical history - what do they write down? My daughter didn't know that her grandmother had breast cancer. If I hadn't found her she wouldn't have known that I had endometrial cancer or that there's a history of heart problems in the family. Everyone else has this knowledge to help them and their doctors figure out how to heal them or just keep them healthy. Everyone else knows if there's a genetic predisposition to certain diseases and from there can decide whether or not to have children of their own. They know what they might have a chance of passing down to their offspring. Why can't adoptees have this information too? Even the basic paperwork of who they are in the eyes of the state they live in is hidden from adoptees. No original birth certificates for them - only the fake ones. It's just too much. It's too much that they're missing. It's not fair to them.

From my place in the picture I saw what I was missing and it was agony. It was the only thing I could focus on because the pain was so big. Since it's been almost 9 years since finding my daughter I've been able to learn more about what she's been missing by listening to her and reading what other adoptees have written. As mothers we want what's best for our children. If adoption is going to be about the children (notice I said "going to be" since it's really about $ at this point and I can hope can't I?) then I think natural mothers owe it to their children to meet them, give them not only the medical history they need but also the answers they need no matter what the questions are. I don't care who searches for who, the adoptees deserve answers. Our kids didn't sign up for this.

When I was ready to start on the next painting in the series I remembered that I had some of my daughter's pictures from her childhood. The photo I used for a reference really struck me because of the large empty space behind her and that's when it hit me to leave her face an empty space also. For our kids there's too many missing pieces.


  1. Coming from a very large family as I do, I cannot imagine how it feels to not know who your anscestors were. Every human deserves to know this and everything that goes with it. Even the bad stuff. Unimaginable that it must be LEGISLATED!!

    With my adopted daughter, she knows who we are and she knows who her first family is and why she had to change families. We all wish it had not been so, but it was. The really cool part is that even though she was adopted from my husbands family, she loves to tell people what she got from me and my side of the family. We laugh, but I love this as we do not really share any genes. It make me know that I am her mom.

    We only hide things that are wrong. I wish that the only adoptions were the ones that were absolutely necessary and that would mean never a need to hide anything.

  2. It's strange to think people really aren't aware of things like the traits they carry from their parents. My daughter, while she has an accurate medical history now, does not even begin to realize exactly how much we are alike. We have personalities that are very similar, we hold our heads the same way, sit the same way, she has her father's adventerous palate (she likes kimchi - which I find disgusting, but then I don't like saurkraut either), she has my way of talking with her hands. And she says things that I would say....sayings that I know she heard from me in her preverbal stages- ages 0-3. She also is as stubborn as I am...which is iffy in whether or not I can stand myself - LOL. She has eyes like my older sister, my face, her father's chin, legs and behind...and his feet. She is, totally, a blend of her father and I.

  3. Thank you. This was exactly what I needed to read today.