While watching one of my go-to shows the other night, it came out that one of the lead characters was an adoptee.
She winced whenever the topic arose, and when her adopted mother finally made an appearance, an anger-fuelled altercation revealed that the mother had only wanted to collect a cheque - that she didn’t love her adopted child as she had loved her natural-born children, and that the adoptee had always felt like an outsider in her family.
The eye-roll-worthy scene was thick with stereotypes - from the white woman “rescuing” a poor orphaned black girl and raising her alongside her caucasian-born birth children, to the narcissistic intentions behind the adoption, to the disconnected relationship between mother and daughter in the absence of blood ties - the storyline reflected many of the assumptions made about adoption in today’s society.
Growing up as an adoptee with a mixed-race background and caucasian parents, I was constantly asked prodding questions about why I didn’t look like my mom and dad, asking me where I came from, and the reasons behind why I had been adopted. But unlike the storyline in my show, my story was one of love, and intention.
With the mention of adoption comes a series of questions, and oftentimes, those queries (though usually not by intention) imply that the adopted child was a backup plan after a failed pregnancy attempt, or as a result of a generous act of charity by “noble” parents.
Unaware of the negative connotations, people ask, “Why would you adopt if you can have your own child?” or they say, “They’re so lucky to have been adopted, I could never love a child that wasn’t my own.”
Adoption is often pegged as a second choice - a consolation prize for those parents who are unable to produce a child naturally. And while many adoptive families may have come to be after pregnancy complications and infertility challenges, that doesn’t mean that the child is loved any less, or that the family isn’t as equally full of love. For some, adoption may have been the second choice, but that doesn’t mean that the children who are adopted are second best.
There are also many families who choose adoption first - who recognize that there are children in this world who are looking for forever homes, and who want to provide loving homes for those children before bringing new ones into the world.
Many also assume that adoptees grow up feeling unwanted, or discarded. I was raised to believe that I was lucky - not because I was “rescued”, but because I was chosen by my adoptive parents. There are so many unfit parents who bring children into the world, I’ve always felt fortunate to have been an intentional choice.
Adoption is not black and white. It’s an experience that differs for everyone. Despite the stereotypes, it can be a beautiful, bonding experience that can be just as solid as a biological bond. Let’s stop pegging adoption as a sad story, and recognize that it can be the beginning of a beautiful story - one that should be told much more often.
Bianca Bujan is a mother of three, writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her on Twitter @biancabujan and Instagram @bitsofbee.