Throughout my upbringing, I felt incredibly different from the people who surrounded me.
There were things about me that stood out. One of those things being my strawberry blonde hair. I loved to sing and dance. There are home videos of me singing in the lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian at the four years old.
I remember when my second-grade music teacher reached out to my mom and extended a personal invitation for me to attend a music program because she believed I would be incredibly successful.
But, my family did not accept the invitation.
In fifth grade, I showed strong interest in athletics. Despite my petite stature, I was pretty good at shooting hoops. But, this after-school activity was also forbidden.
In high school, I was invited to take Honors courses, followed by AP English. When I danced into my living room with enthusiasm, eager to share the news, I was met with an apathetic audience. They discouraged me from taking on the more challenging courses. I realized that one of our biggest differences was that I seemed to be an overachiever type, and my family was content with keeping a low profile.
Aside from this, I recall that growing up, comments were made regarding my appearance.
I was frequently called, "the blonde girl" and "the little American girl." I never made it known that it bothered me, but it did. According to my knowledge at this time, I was Cuban, just like the rest of my family. I knew how to cook the most traditional Cuban dishes, dance salsa, and I even had a quinceanera (Hispanic coming-of-age ceremony).
So, I felt uncomfortable when people told me that I didn't look Hispanic.
Before I turned two years old, my parents divorced. It turned out that prior to me being born, my dad began seeing a woman and started a relationship. By the time I was four months old, my mother had become pregnant with a son. I don't recall ever living with my father. My dad, and paternal family, for that matter, visited me sparingly. I lived and grew up with my mother and my grandparents. I shared a room with my mom until I could afford to move out at the age of 24.
Following the divorce, my mom became very depressed and developed a borderline personality disorder. She barely left her bed for an entire decade.
It was at that time that my aunt and uncle had unofficial custody of me. They made sure I had a childhood, while my mom was in deep suffering.
During the years 2008-09, we were in a dire financial situation. Had it not been for my grandparents buying their home in cash those fifty-some years ago, we would have been homeless. There were days when we searched the car for change, looking to see if we had enough money to share a six-piece chicken nugget from McDonald's.
During my teen years, I fell in love. I was head over heels for a sixteen-year-old boy who claimed he loved me too. When he broke up with me, I was devastated.
So was my mom.
Her first boyfriend was shot in a terrible accident and she carried that pain with her. She wanted to avoid that I would endure heartbreak and very much desired that I married him. So, she reached out for supernatural help. She met a man who practiced witchcraft and claimed that he would restore our teenage romance. In order to do so, he claimed that he needed to touch me inappropriately. I was frightened and I believed that he held real powers. I was molested at these visits. When I came forward to my mom, she refused to go to the police because she feared that my ex-boyfriend would find his pictures on the evening news. When I came forward and told my dad, he blamed me for the crime committed against me. It may also be valuable to add that my father is a high ranking law official. I wonder if he would say the same to any other victim or even to his other children.
At the age of eighteen, I got into a huge argument with mom following my high school graduation. As I grew older and became more independent, she wanted to become more controlling. I was fighting her to allow me to drive myself to the university. In the midst of an escalated argument, she told me that I was adopted. One day later, she told me that the social worker had given her the name of my birth mother. At this point, I did not have an interest in meeting any birth relatives. It was too much information all at once.
But, I was curious to see a photo. I simply wanted to see what she looked like. I searched her name, along with the city where I was born, St. Petersburg, Florida. What I found was more than what I had bargained for. There was an advertisement of her looking for me.
I found out that I was adopted in June 2009. My mom made arrangements to meet my birth family in November of 2009. Looking back, I was in no way ready for this. I had not fully digested the fact that I was adopted. Things were beginning to make sense to me, such as why I looked different and why my character and talents differed so vastly from those of my family members. But, this information was all incredibly new to me. Alongside, at the age of 18, I also had a lot of maturing to do. This monumental moment was something that I preferred to put on hold; however, my mom claimed that this had to be done, and I quote, "before she died."
So, I spent Thanksgiving with my birth mom, cousins, and birth-family.
As I have matured, I have initiated contact with other family members on my own, without the involvement of my adoptive family. I am close to my aunt and recently made contact with my father. I never realized how nervous I was to reach out until I finally did. As he was writing back to me in the chat-screen, my hands were shaking. I realized that I was longing for his acknowledgment and his love. I longed for a father's love and receiving that was something so monumental for me.
I have an older sister. We are nearly identical. Seeing her in person was as if finding a missing piece of my soul.
As difficult as it is to explain, I loved her my entire life, despite not knowing her.
My birth mother admitted that she had considered placing my sister in the same home. But, the agency did not accept her, as she was an, "older child." In the adoption-world, that means older than 15 months. Since the adoption was closed, both of my families had never met each other.
I spent the Christmas season crying because I missed my sister and I mourned for all the years that we did not spend together. I imagined that life with my sister would have been different.
For one, I would not have been singled out as the only person who looked different.
I would not have to carry the burden of being adopted on my own.
Growing up with a sibling would have liberated me from living on such a tight leash, even way into adulthood.
It was years later that I became involved with adoptee rights.
I started learning about how private adoptions are part of a multi-billion dollar industry. I started becoming more aware of how mothers are coerced to give up their children for adoption. Typically, the reasons why many mothers choose the permanent decision of adoption, is because of a temporary situation, like poverty. I was placed for adoption because I was born to a young, low-income, single mother. Despite being adopted, I was also raised by the low-income single mother. Despite our hardships, I have formed an attachment and a bond to this family.
I am especially grateful for my grandparents. I love them dearly. They salvaged my childhood and provided support in every aspect of my life. It is the only family I have ever known. But, this story is weaved with threads of inhumanity, nonetheless.
Today, I advocate for the following:
1) I frequently see posts on social media from couples asking women to consider them as potential parents for their unborn child. We will not solve the issue of a growing number of orphans by asking more women to orphan their children. I pray that we can empower more women and give them the tools to succeed in order for them to be able to raise their children
2) All adults should have access to birth records. If biological children have access, and adoptees do not, this is discrimination. Quite frankly, the legacy of Georgia Tann, the kidnapper and child seller, needs to end along with this practice, which she initiated
3) All adoptees suffer from trauma due to separation from their birth parents
4) The adoption industry needs to end. Children are not property, therefore, there should be no industry. Adoption needs to be regulated by unbiased parties, who haven't lost objectivity due to financial prospect
5) We need to stop stereotyping adoption triads. Adoptees are not always troubled or rebellious, birth parents are not typically villains, and adoptive parents are not always heroes. Let us celebrate parents for being great parents, not simply for the way that they became parents.
6) People will always be curious regarding their origins. Curiosity is not a reflection on the adoptive parents.
7) Adoption is PERMANENT. Please consider fostering to decide if it is right for you and for your potential child.