Birth Country Bound: Thoughts from an International Adoptee on Traveling Home

Home, it’s been a weighted word for me all of my life. Perhaps, other adoptees will understand what I mean by this. As a person of international adoption, I have struggled with where home is for me.

I’ve tossed and turned with thoughts of what and how much I am allowed to feel for the land I was born into and the land I was adopted into.

If you honor one side are you dishonoring the other? This is a very real question for the adoptee: the internal conflict between birth heritage and adopted heritage.

Often times, it was easier for me not to face this question. As an adolescent—a time filled with the longings of identity and belonging—I’d turn off my emotions and silence the chatter of those telling me who and what I was.

How English could I be after being removed from my homeland? How American was I allowed to be when I was not born in my country of residence?

Foreigner. Imposter.

These words followed me as I grew. A girl of international adoption who became a woman living between two countries and trying to bridge a sense of meaning between the two. Life, at times, felt as if I was standing on the outside and looking in. Where did I belong?

This is a search-for-self that the adoptee will grapple with at some point. It’s an experience that—no matter how challenging—will eventually serve to make the adoptee stronger; more resilient to change and the shifting winds of life.

There is an internal strength born of the storm that finds a child removed from one family and transitioned into another. I re-visit that child and remember her strength every time I return home to my native England.

And, I’m going home soon…

As I write these words, I’m preparing to travel back to the United Kingdom. It’s been nearly three years since I was last there and so much has occurred since that time. My homeland has welcomed into the Royal Family, a bi-racial American woman who is now the Duchess of Sussex. The marriage of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry, in my view, marks a significant cultural change for Great Britain.

Oprah Winfrey, a guest at the royal wedding, described the union in this way: “You could not be there or watching on television and not feel that there was a shift that just happened in the middle of it. I think it’s bigger than them and I think it bodes well for hope for all of us.”

Hope.

As a former foster child, I was marked as “difficult to place” by my social worker in England due to what she termed as my “darker coloring and skin tone.” Facing prejudice growing up, a hope that people might someday see beyond color as an identifier of a child’s worth seemed fleeting. Bigotry entered my life very early on. And, it made me feel small for quite some time.

Yet, we evolve as a society—slowly perhaps—but we do evolve.

My hope for every child in U.K. foster care and in America’s foster system is to be valued no matter their skin tone, background, or story. My hope is that every waiting child will find the love of a forever family and will be embraced by that family—unconditionally.

What if we could all extend that type of welcome to each other?

I, like Oprah Winfrey, witnessed hope emerging as I watched the union of Meghan Markle to her prince. It was the welcoming of a new era. I was reminded that the world is changing and with it, the very fabric of what family—even the Royal Family—looks like and feels like is changing, as well.

I’m excited to go back to my birth country: this new and more modern England. I know that prejudice may always exist but I do believe that a kinder world is emerging. A more inclusive society is rising up. And, this holds the power to positively impact the lives of thousands-upon-thousands of orphaned children who dream of a family to call their own. A family that will love them for who they are, as they are.

It’s time, don’t you think?

Time to celebrate diversity of family.

Time to declare that no child is difficult to place.

Time to let every child shine.

No exceptions.

As for me, home is not a weighted word anymore. Home is both in America and in England. I honor both sides because each is a part of me and together they make me whole.

Home is within me and I like it here.

I think I’ll stay awhile.

Onward,

4 thoughts on “Birth Country Bound: Thoughts from an International Adoptee on Traveling Home

  1. I’m glad you’ve reconciled with being part of both countries and I too hope children everywhere,
    whatever they look like, will be accepted & loved.
    I grew up in England & came to
    America alone at 18. Within my
    first year here I was pregnant with
    no resources & couldn’t go home. I had to surrender my son to adoption. I grieved for him the rest of my life but searched & found him. We’ve been in reunion for years now.
    Did you search for birth family?

    1. Hi Kathleen, thank you for sharing your story with me. I am so very happy that you searched for and found your son. I understand the grief and the longing — and I know that my mum grieved and suffered for many years after we were separated. I did search for my birth family. I was kept a secret for so long… I began going back to see my mum as a teen. My birth father passed away in 2008. (my parents were not married.) I did not see him before he passed but he did tell his son that I was “out there somewhere.” My brother and I met about 6 years ago. Kathleen, your love for your son is felt through the words you write and the emotion you share. Thank you. I’m deeply grateful for your example. xoxo

  2. Beautifully written & expressed. You are an inspiration! I hope you enjoy your time back here in the UK. Peace & love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *