Today I have been thinking quite a bit about my adoption. Matthias and I have talked a bit about the idea of one day adopting from El Salvador. I must confess I have mixed feelings about doing so; to adopt from El Salvador would keep the country in our minds constantly and I don’t know if I want to do that. I admit that at times, I have almost no interest in adopting from El Salvador, partly because I feel like my ties to ES are something I want to leave in the past. Sometimes I feel guilty for this, and if I am honest, I would say that I don’t have a strong emotional attachment to the country or desire to visit or go back again and again and again. That is not to say it’s not a beautiful, splendid country that I do love and feel joy when I think about it. I also have a great deal of respect and awe for how the people of ES have survived such horrors during the civil war. The Salvadorans are an amazing people, and I do feel pride for the land of my birth. I have gone to ES twice and I am so glad I have been back. I worked very hard to learn Spanish so that I could fulfill my long-time dream of going back to ES. I spent an entire summer (in 2004) working at an orphanage near San Salvador, speaking Spanish all summer long. It was a very difficult summer for me and I actually requested to leave early because it was so draining on me, emotionally and physically. I had a very hard time with the philosophy and practices of the American missionaries who ran the place, particularly in their aversion to allowing the children to be adopted. I loved the children – seeing them brought back so many memories from the past. It was just too painful to see children growing up without parents when some of them could have been adopted. I’m glad for my own sanity that I left early. I miss the kids but the experience was pretty scarring in some ways. My second visit to ES was when Matthias and I “dropped by” El Salvador for four days during our honeymoon to Costa Rica. We stopped by another children’s home, ran much differently than the one I’d been in, and we appreciated how beautiful the country is together. Matthias made jokes about how heavy I would have been if I’d grown up in ES because the food is NOT healthy! We stopped by the beach, bought some nice souvenirs, saw our friends, and practiced our Spanish. It was nice to be back, nice to look like everyone else, nice to be able to have some connection to a country that’s listed on my passport as my birthplace. For most of my life, I have had very little interest in El Salvador, although I’ve been forcing myself to read books and learn more about the civil war. Even when I meet people from ES, I don’t feel a special “link” to them or unusual emotional attachment. I don’t feel like I am Salvadoran, although I have come to accept my heritage and recognize that for all intents and purposes, I am 100% American and not Salvadoran. In other words, after having a bit of an identity crisis, I know who I am and I am thankful for my story.
I was orphaned and that’s why I was able to be adopted. I never came to full terms with my adoption until I visited El Salvador in 2004. It hit my like a ton of bricks: “I am adopted! Like really, really adopted!” Even though I don’t look like my parents, I have never “felt” adopted, not ever. They are my parents. I never really different than any other kid, and I didn’t have some of the psychological problems that many adopted kids have, feeling like they are not good enough, etc. Especially when I became a Christian, I knew that God had hand-picked my parents for me, and there was no mistake that I was in that family.
So anyway, back to the question looming in my mind: to adopt from ES or not. Of course there’s no need to decide anytime soon, but I think about it sometimes. I think Matthias and I are both totally open to the idea of adoption itself. However, at times I am not sure I want it to be ES. Like I said, I feel little attachment to the country and if we adopt from ES, we will talk about ES a lot with our children and teach them about the history, the war, the language, etc. However, when I think about ES it’s usually associated with some sort of pain…deep, deep down. You know, I was raised in a playgroup of Salvadoran kids, all adopted and growing up in NJ. Not one of them ever went back to ES. They were just not interested and thought it was odd that I would go back to see the land of our birth. If I had to guess, I would say it’s traumatizing to reflect too much on what might have been if we had never left ES. All of us are so glad that we “got out.” We escaped poverty (most of us kids were from families that were the poorest of the poor), squalor, lack of education, and life in a third world country and came to the US. We grew up with parents, siblings, friends, everything we needed, and lots of love. Maybe that’s wrong thinking, like “thank God we got out of nasty El Salvador to wonderful America” but it’s not really that. It’s just the idea that everything we have, everything that we are is not really our right…it’s a gift. For natural-born kids, it’s their right to have all that stuff, but for an adopted kid, you know deep down it’s all a gift and it can be overwhelming to think about not having all those things.
Working with orphans was really traumatic for me, because I realized that I could have lived their lives. Some of the kids would cry themselves to sleep. They were so lonely and all I could do was sit with them and stroke their hair. It was a very strange feeling to be with a child that is living the life you could have easily lived…if God hadn’t intervened. Of course it’s easy to say “God had a plan for you” or something along those lines, but let me tell you, being with a heartbroken orphan as a former orphan is so painful that I cannot even write about it. All I could think is, “Why me, God? Why not her? Why couldn’t she have had parents, too?” I wanted to adopt all those kids. I wanted to take them all home. Maybe I will take one home…someday.
I think adoption is a beautiful thing, one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in this crazy, unstable life. I know of little written about adopting when you’ve been adopted. If anyone knows anything, let me know. I know it’s not easy to be an adoptive parent because you have to deal with so many painful questions. “Why did my mommy give me up? Was she too poor to take care of me? Why don’t I look like you, mommy? Do you mind if I try to find my birth mom? Am I American or Salvadoran? Does my birth ever think about me? Is she even alive? Would she want to meet me?” etc. I think I might be uniquely prepared for those questions because I’ve asked them all myself at one time or another. Regarding adoption from ES I am torn: I am not sure I want to keep remembering ES every day of my life, as lovely of a country as it is, but in a way, it might be what God calls us to do. If I had to guess, I bet we will adopt from somewhere in Latin America. Only He knows.
Well, hope you enjoyed some rambling thoughts about adoption and being adopted.