Many adoptees are brought into adoptive families that cannot have children themselves, or they have children of their own but for some reason want more.

I came into this family that already had two biological children, and my adoptive parents had lost another child, a newborn, some time before I arrived. When I arrived I was supposed to provide happiness and joy, and be a substitute for the baby that died. I was also supposed to bring balance to their fragile marriage.

They never worked through the loss of that baby, but instead clung to the grief with almost religious persistence. As the years went by this turned to disappointment in me, because they realized that I could never really replace the child that they had lost, in the sense that no child can truly replace another.

I tried to please them in any way I could, but it was never good enough. To grow up feeling that they saw me as a burden, and also carry my own burden of trying to live up to their impossible expectations, was a battle that I could not win.

I remember too well one sentence they said to me many times while I grew up: “We love you as if you were our real daughter!” That’s such a hurtful and evil thing to say to a little child, a constant reminder that I did not belong in the family, how much of an outsider I was. Many times I’ve wondered what they actually meant by loving me, since they went to such trouble to give me an abusive childhood. I was always the black sheep of the family, the loser and the one who could not ever be good enough. I wasn’t even their first choice to adopt into the family. I might as well have been wearing a sign with big letters: The substitute.

I feel the adoption market must change in many ways. I hope it will end, but if not then at least treat us adoptees as humans. Have open records, truthful journals, cooperation between both families, the adoptive family and the natural family. Let us keep our mother tongue, give us a chance to move back one day to our homeland, let the agencies find adoptive parents for the children, not children for the adoptive parents. Let no-one profit from this horrific act. Give us our human rights, and hopefully the adoptive parents will understand that our natural parents are normal people that struggle in life; they are not bad parents, whores, or someone who just felt like giving away a child; they will regret it for the rest of their lives. They don’t take this lightly, their missing children will always haunt them, just like their absence haunts us. We are their children, precious like diamonds. They will always be in our hearts for the rest of our lives as ghosts, whether they are dead or alive, except for the few who are lucky enough to be reunited.

More respect for the adopted child from the adoptive parents would be good. I wish they’ll never say again, “you must forget you ever had a family, you are in this one now”. And that they’ll no longer expect us to forget everything, all our memories from our homeland, or they will be the ones who are sad and hurt by our talk about our real parents.

As adoptees we are often substitutes for someone, for lost children, or for children that the adoptive parents could never have themselves. We can be molded a little bit, but if they try to change us completely then in the end both sides will lose. The adoptive parents will end up ruining their relationship with the child, often to the point that all family ties are broken and they have no contact once the child has grown up. For this, the adoptee will also pay a very high price.

Our last memories, links, inheritance will be forever lost and many of us will find ourselves in a kind of permanent emotional Limbo; not feeling anything, some pretending to be very happy, others becoming very angry, and never find the peace that I think most of us are looking for. I am personally seeking peace for my soul. I do everything I can to lessen the pain of my childhood memories. I have really dug into my Pandora’s Box filled with sorrow, grief and pain for my inner child. I am trying to mend her and assure her that she is safe now, she can come out now and cry for all those years that were like a hell on Earth. And she is never ever going to feel like or be that substitute, this feeling of a false love she heard several times: “We love you so much, AS IF YOU WERE OUR REAL DAUGHTER!”

~ Khara

3 thoughts on “Substitute

  1. Thank you for sharing this truth in adoption. I wish I knew what I know now in 1966. I wasn’t givin a choice but I thought it would be good for my child, never dreamed she could be affected so. I am blessed that my daughter seems to have been blessed and says she feels she lacked nothing and had a great life. She is happy we are reunited now but put it off many years because her life felt complete and she did not want to disrupt it. Today and for the past 21 yrs I fight for equal access and family preservation and I will until I die.

  2. I am glad there are some happy reunions, I met two of my three sisters in Korea once but I still feel I am very lonely and that I will never be a part of my real family. We are strangers to each other, so the boat has sailed for me. Thanks for being active, so things can change in the world one day:) Thanks for reading, welcome back.

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