“Where are you really from?” and “Do you want to find your real parents?” are questions almost every adoptee faces at some point growing up. As two adoptees from China, we both have experienced these awkward discussions with classmates, teachers and random people on the street, even though we grew up in different countries, Sweden and the United Kingdom. We have shared the feeling of confusion when answering the question “So your mum is not your real mum?”, as for both of us there was no question that the mother we had grown up with since before we could remember, was our real mum. Not only did this cause distress on our young selves but it also triggered the feeling of not belonging anywhere, a universal feeling among adoptees. You feel that you are never enough Swedish or British because of your appearance, but you also never feel Chinese enough because your appearance is the only thing that connects you. Growing up in white suburban areas and being the only, or one of few POC in our schools, reminded us every day about how different we were from our classmates and exacerbated the feeling of not fitting in.
Being adopted causes a lot of other mental distress in addition to an identity crisis. Many of our friends who are adopted face abandonment issues and extreme anxiety. What happens to you as a baby impacts you later on in life, and that is why so many of us struggle with relationships, with ourselves and with our past. It is therefore important that we do not just forget the past and move on, as it is as much a part of us as we are of it.
We are always told, “you’re so lucky to have been adopted”. They say it with good intentions but in actuality, we had no choice in the matter, we are not ‘lucky’ but we are not ‘unlucky’. It is the same way the word ‘adoption’ now has bad connotations, that you are unwanted, unloved and unhappy, but what is actually bad about it? Our biological parents did not give us up out of choice, and we are no less a person because we are adopted. None of us can help that we were put up for adoption. People struggle to understand this, and it means they are careful to bring it up, they believe its a sensitive topic, and parts of it are, but treating it this way is not the answer, we are not afraid of the word ‘adoption’, so ask us but be respectful and know that it is not a secret we keep hidden in our lives.
China’s one-child policy was implemented in 1979 and abolished in 2015 and it was said to have prevented 400 million births More detail can be found about this policy in the documentary ‘One Child Nation’ made by the BBC. Having a second child resulted in a fine, many of whom could not afford it. As a result children, mainly girls, because boys were seen as the more desirable gender, were abandoned on the streets in hope of being found. Women, including 108 million mothers, were also forcibly sterilised. Many of the abandoned daughters were lucky to be found and taken to an orphanage, however, some died due to exposure or not ever being discovered. Twins were often forcibly split up and disabled children suffered greatly as the level of care in orphanages was atrocious in the late 20th century. More can be seen in the documentary ‘The Dying Rooms’ of the quality of life they were subjected to. Due to such effort to prevent two children, China now struggles with a lack of girls, advertising the ideal family as a two children household.
As two adoptees we believe it is important that our voices are heard. We are grateful for all that we have and where we are now, but we acknowledge that it has not been easy for ourselves or others. We want this to be a way to tell other adoptees that you are not alone and to hopefully raise awareness of those out there who are here today because of china’s one-child policy.
The Dying Room
One child nation