Sharing my story is important because as adoptees we often feel like we don't belong, we feel alone and misunderstood, but we have such a strong and beautiful community, we are not alone, we have each other. Furthermore, my story is love and boy do we need more of that in the world.
I was born in Maceió, a coastal city in Northeastern Brazil. I was the third child of a poor family. Gilvania, my biological mother, was not financially able to care for me, and opted for international adoption after Jose, a social worker, introduced her to the idea. He reassured her by telling her he knew this great family in Canada that had adopted in Brazil twice already. Jose had met my adoptive family a few years prior when he was forced to seek asylum in Canada as a political refugee. Wanting to learn French, Jose had chosen University Laval in Quebec City where both my parents were studying at the time. They became close friends and through conversations my parents expressed their desire to adopt some day. Fast forward to 1987, my parents were getting ready to adopt their third child, they had adopted twice with Jose’s help and thought they would switch things up for their third one and were considering Bolivia. A phone call from Jose changed everything, he called my parents to tell them about this woman he had just met Gilvania, she was pregnant and had decided that adoption was the best course of action for her unborn daughter. My parents agreed and started the process.
Several months later, at four months old, I was landing at Quebec City Airport with my new dad and a new family waiting at the gates to greet me. In the course of one flight, everything was different, I left a family behind, a way of life, a culture, a language, and simultaneously I gained all of that back differently. Let me just say that I applaud my parents, raising four adopted kids is no easy task (they adopted one more after me).
The first years were really difficult, not all of us got along and we all had our set of challenges along with very explosive personalities. Four adopted kids in one household is a lot, emotions were flying high, and there was a lot of anger from all the unanswered questions we had in regards to our unknown pasts combined with not having the right words and tools to express how we felt.
Building a strong identity and having a strong sense of self is what I found most challenging growing up, especially as a young adult. I overcame that by traveling around the world by myself, there's no better way to know the person that you are than by leaving with a suitcase to some foreign places with only yourself to rely on. I am proud of the woman I built myself to be. I still have my moments, mostly when it comes to intimate relationships, I have an ingrained fear of being abandoned and I am continuously working on that. Little by little, I am letting people in closer.
When I was 19 years old, I traveled back to Brazil with my adoptive mom and one of my brothers. It was my first time back as an adult and it felt surreal to be there, everything from the smells, the taste of the food, the sights seemed familiar. I felt like I was at home, yet I was treated like a foreigner and that was painful at times. At that point in my life, I had already made peace with the fact that I would never get to meet my birth family. Well it turns out that I was wrong. On this trip, I was able to meet them. I still don't have the words to describe how it felt. It felt like a dream, I had to pinch myself to realize it was really happening. I first met a cousin and an aunt who gave us my mother's address, and there we went, knocking on her door unannounced. She wasn't home, so we called her and explained to her who we were and she just said "Don't move, I'm on my way". The next day, she organized this huge BBQ Brazilian style called “churrascaria”. There, I got to meet everyone except for my father. To this day, I am still in touch with them, we talk on occasions, it's amazing aside from the language barrier, it can get difficult, but I am currently learning Portuguese.
My present relationship with my adoptive parents is great, but it wasn't always like that. The older I get, the more I appreciate them and the more I realize that human beings like them don't come around that often. They are the most selfless people I know and also the strongest, most resilient. They passed onto me amazing values, and taught me the true meaning of unconditional love.
Overall, adoption has impacted my life in many ways, some good, some bad. I feel like because of the way my parents raised me, I was able to define the woman I am becoming on my own terms. Adoption made my identity stronger, because I worked for it, literally. I had to build my identity pretty much from scratch. Since I never really had strong roots and never identified to a specific group or culture, I was able to create my own and identify to a broader group, human beings. With that being said, I always felt a sense of duality inside of me, and at times feeling like I didn't belong was hard.
In the future, I hope to live under the sun, happy and at peace. I want to be creating and contributing to making this world a more loving and positive place.