“You’re adopted? I’m so sorry.” At the time when these words were said to me, I didn’t think too much about it. It wasn’t until returning home that night and lying in my bed reviewing my day, did the gravity of the encounter truly come to light.
It was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, a summer in which I spent most of my time at the church my family and I attend. Along with 30 or so other students from the local high schools, I was accepted into the summer student internship program.
On the first day, as we began our studies, we were performing simple ice breaker exercises to get to know our fellow interns as well as our teachers. It was during one of these sessions that the event occurred.
As we went around the room each intern was supposed to describe a trait they believed they received from their parents, be it physical appearance or characteristic trait that was passed down. I knew the question wouldn’t apply to me, but I never expected it to be a problem. As everyone went around the room, it eventually came to be my turn. I politely declined the question and hoped to move on.
But what ensued in our little classroom was an awkward moment, that really shouldn’t have been so awkward. And I believe it represented a large view of American culture and its views on adoption.
Upon explaining to our teacher that I was adopted from Colombia and that I knew nothing of my birth parents’ physical or characteristic traits. The instructor could only simply muster, “You’re adopted. I’m so sorry.”
And just as the awkwardness came, it was gone. Onto the next student answering the question. And I was happy to leave it at that. Until that night, when I laid down, and the question wouldn’t leave my mind, “What did she mean by ‘I’m sorry?’”
My teacher apologized for the fact that I had been adopted. She treated it as if it was something to be ashamed of, or that my life was now poorer because I had been. She apologized as if she expected me to be embarrassed.
But the instructor couldn’t have been more wrong.
From the little I know about my birth parents, my life would be nothing near what I am blessed to have today. My birth mother and father were not married and neither of them had a lot of money. Their original reason for putting me up for adoption was the fact that my mother knew she could not afford to take care of me.
At the time, Colombia was a mess. In 1999, the civil war between the gorillas and the government raged on, drugs dominated much of the country and the government and the country had failed to get out from under its “third-world country” status.
If anything, my birth mother’s courageous and selfless choice to allow me to be put up for adoption many have very well saved my life.
Adoption is nothing to be ashamed of, nor should it be viewed as negative by parents, adopted children or outside parties. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, approximately 120,000 children are adopted every year in the United States. Adoption is one of the best things that can happen for a child when done correctly. It’s nothing to be sorry about.