Becca, can you give us a little background about yourself & your adoption?
I was born January 18th, 1990 and was adopted shortly after. I was told that my birthmother was gone by the time my adoptive parents came to get me at the hospital and that all arrangements had been made with a private attorney prior. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and have lived in different neighborhoods of Philadelphia for most of my adult life- with the exception of going to university in central PA and a short stint of traveling (in my car!) on the west coast a few years back. Currently, I live in a part of Philly that is about a mile down the road from the hospital where I was born, and where my birthmother actually grew up—very strange.
And what do you do in Philly?
I work in childcare—I’m a full time nanny. I’m actually working with an adoptive family. I also have a (very humble!) business making herbal soaps and other products for skin and self. I am also in the process of applying to graduate school.
A busy woman! That’s incredible that you work with an adoptive family. What’s it been like working with an adopted child as an adult adoptee?
So, working with an adoptive family has been kind of miraculous for me because the adoptee is aware of so much more than I was when I was their age. They ask a lot of questions. They ask about their birth mother a lot—I mean, the fact that they even know the term birthmother is bizarre to me. Not because they shouldn’t, but because at that age, I didn’t even know what a “birthmother” or a “birth family” was. I feel really glad to be a part of their journey, to be able to support their intense curiosity, and to help with processing the pain and happiness that comes with being an adoptee in any way I can.
I’m sure it’s enlightening to be able to have that kind of perspective. Could you expand on your own adoptee journey a little bit?
I’ve always known I was adopted—I don’t remember a specific moment being told, but I’ve always “known.” I have an older brother who is adopted as well. We never really discussed adoption in my family growing up so I learned it wasn’t really a valid conversation topic—like it was somehow out of bounds or taboo. I’m learning now, especially working with a young adoptee, how, even if I did feel it was okay to bring it up, I wouldn’t even know how to start that conversation. So I didn’t.
Growing up, all the (biological) families I knew shared a prominent physical feature, you know, like a distinguishing attribute. I became obsessed with that. I kind of resembled my parents and I could pass as their biological kid—brown hair, green-blue eyes, generally Jewish-looking. My brother definitely looked different—strawberry-blonde hair and lots of freckles, Irish-looking. I always wondered what that must have felt like for him. I honestly felt lucky to fit in.
I remember one time my mom and I were stopped in a department store and this stranger said something along the lines of “Oh she’s so beautiful, she has your eyes!” My mom just thanked her and agreed, never acknowledging to me that my eyes, did not, in fact, come from her. So, yeah, I learned not to talk about it.
It wasn’t until other people, friends mostly, asked if I knew who my birth mother was that I even realized there was someone out there called “my birthmother.” At this point I started totally fantasizing about what she looked like—from the time I was a teenager until my early twenties in college. All I wanted to know was what she looked like. I looked for her in big crowds, especially airports for some reason. But, if anyone were to ask if I planned on finding her, I would probably stutter and say something like “I don’t know, my parents love me so so much and doing that would break their hearts”
If you had to use one word to describe your adoptee journey, what would it be and why?
Confused. I’ve struggled so much with my identity, even prior to my adoption coming to the forefront of my mind. Even after realizing that my adoption is the source of a lot of my personal struggles, even after coming out of the fog and doing a lot of processing and self-work, it’s still so confusing—the not knowing why and wrestling with all the unknowns.
And branching off of that…What would you say has been your biggest (or one of the biggest) struggle in adulthood with regard to your adoptee journey?
My biggest struggle has been finding my place in the world—in jobs, in friend groups, in relationships, etc. Everything seems to be steeped in the fears of being rejected, of not belonging, and of not being enough.
Has anything positive come from your adoption journey?
Well, the most positive thing that has come out of my adoption journey, aside from the personal growth and acknowledgement that I have experienced since I started tackling all of this, has been the lush community of adoptees I’ve found online and through AC that are opening up this conversation. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been overshadowed by the confusion I feel as an adopted person in this world. But I feel like I no longer have to pretend that everything is just “fine.” That support and validation has been so invaluable.
I think you’re totally right that so much of the dialogue surrounding adoptees can be extremely invalidating. What do you wish more non-adopted people knew about the adoptee experience? Or what do you think is the biggest misconception?
I wish people knew that adoption is, first and foremost, a loss. I wish people would understand that we carry that pain and confusion with us for our lifetime. People need to know that, respect it, and not impose their own ideas of gratitude and appreciation onto us.
To be an adoptee is to have one’s first experiences of the world overwhelmed by loss, absence, and trauma. Yet adoptees are inundated by narratives that demand gratitude and appreciation for our circumstances. The effects that initial separation trauma and additional cultural expectations regarding families leave on the psyche of an adoptee are profound, and widely misunderstood.
If you could change anything about your adoption journey up to this point, would you?
I wish my adoptive parents had received more education about adoptee-specific trauma. I wish we could have started this conversation, as a family, a long time ago. I wish it didn’t feel like a big secret for most of my life.
How has being a part of Adoptees Connect made a difference in your life?
I’ve always been a tangle of too many thoughts—worried and retreating into myself with feelings too treacherous to admit. Having the safety of the Adoptees Connect community, where we all get to be heard, has been a validating and profound experience. Stepping into a leadership role as a Group Facilitator and being able to offer a space to the adoptees in my own community has given me so much strength. Since being involved with Adoptees Connect, I feel my life settling in a more pleasant way.
Lee Rolandi- Writer/Editor/Publisher