When I was a child, my go-to bedtime story was Jonathan London’s “A Koala for Katie”, a story about a girl named Katie who visits the zoo with her parents. In many ways, it seemed like he had written the story about me. My nickname is Katie, and my parents and I frequented the San Diego Zoo. But the thing that really bonded Katie and I together was that we were both adopted.
Like Katie in the story, I also grew up curious and asking similar questions.
“Was I really in my real mom’s belly?
“But I wasn’t in your belly?”
“Why didn’t my first mommy want me?”
Rereading these questions as a young adult now makes my stomach churn as I try to imagine my replies. I am thankful for London’s sensitivity and honesty surrounding adoption as Katie’s awkward and direct questions are met with love and reassurance from her adoptive parents.
“Of course you were Katie, but I’m your real mommy too.”
“No sweetie, I can’t have a baby.”
“She was too young to take good care of you. She loved you Katie and she wanted you to have a better life than she could give you.”
As a child, these simple responses were more than good enough to fill in the unknowns of my own origin story. But as I entered my early 20s, the childhood paradigms I had formed were inadequate in holding the growing tensions and complexities I experienced from growing up adopted.
The childhood paradigms I had formed were inadequate in holding the growing tensions and complexities I experienced from growing up adopted.
I was born in ZhuZhou, Hunan Province, China and was adopted by a 3rd generation Japanese-American mother and a too-far-back-to-count-the-generation white father. Three years later, my parents adopted my sister who is Mexican American. Growing up in a bicultural, quadethnic household presented its own set of challenges, but the added layer of being adopted was what I wrestled with the most.
During my season of wrestling, being adopted challenged my very existence; I questioned God’s purpose in making me a woman, Chinese, and American. Had the Creator made a mistake? Like Katie, I started asking the hard questions.
“Did my birth mother abandon me because I was not a son?”
“Am I Chinese enough?”
“Where do I fit in the Asian Pacific Islander community?
“Who would I be now, if I wasn’t adopted?”
“Was it in God’s will for me to lose my first family?”
I struggled to find neat little answers to my coming-of-age questions, and for the first time being adopted felt like an unnecessary burden instead of a blessing from God. Holding the feelings of confusion, pain, grief, and not-belonging were too much to carry at times. The energy it took to navigate the in-betweens of my identity did not seem worth it.
But in my wrestling, God revealed a simple, yet profound truth. God is the divine author of my story. God has woven together the stories of a mother who was oppressed by the One-Child Policy, a couple who wanted to be parents but couldn’t bear children, and an orphan girl who survived a gendercide.
Adoption is beautifully complex. In it are immense loss, constant unknowns and a love so deep it covers it all. Feeling foreign and finding family. First parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents. Here are some of our stories.