Adoption

This has nothing to do with Panama, bugs, new experiences, or the usual subjects of this blog. It’s a very personal thing, and since this is my blog and I feel like writing about it, here I am. I won’t be offended in the least if any of you just click on by. The next post will be more about the teak harvesting going on in my neighborhood, so stand by.

I happened across this article today – “Please don’t tell me I was lucky to be adopted“.  The writer is talking about some of the difficulties of being an adoptee. One line really struck home – “Can you imagine being the only person in the world you know you’re related to?” Yes, I can. That was my reality for many years of my life. I felt like I had been dropped on this earth by aliens with no connection to anyone in it.

I am one of the lucky ones. I found my birth mother when I was 27 and we have shared a very warm and happy relationship ever since. We are now connected on Facebook and it is possible that she will see this post. The last thing I want to do is make her feel any guilt or responsibility because she deserves none of that. I was born in 1952, and in those times unmarried teen mothers were treated very differently. The decision to relinquish me was made for her, not by her and I think she suffered a lot because of that. She feared I would hate her for giving me up but that thought never crossed my mind. I have thanked her every day for the genes she gave me which I believe have kept me mentally and physically strong throughout my life.

But yes, it is a different experience being adopted. Except for my younger sister, I didn’t know any other adopted children. I had no answers to questions about my nationality. My sister and I look very different which caused many comments at school. I felt no connection with the parents who raised me. That mother was a very unhappy women who subjected us to emotional and physical abuse. I didn’t see much of my father who was also emotionally abused by my mother. It was a difficult and lonely time, and I was comforted by the fact that I shared no genes with those people.

Of course every adoptee has their own unique experience. Some, like me, are driven to find their birth parents. Others seem to have no need to connect with their origins. Some seem fine with the situation, where others feel like a piece of themselves is missing. I imagine it can be even more difficult when you are racially different from the parents who raise you.

For me, it all worked out well. I have been increasingly happy over the years.  I have a good relationship with my birth mother. I have even met my birth father and though we don’t keep in touch, our couple meetings went very well. My children have also been able to meet both of my birth parents. They don’t seem to suffer from the voids on my side of the family history, and I think this was helpful. I went to counseling which helped me put my childhood in perspective, and reassured me that I could be a different kind of parent.

Maybe it was karma, or luck, or the universe knowing I needed this, but my first daughter looks very much like me. It was amazing to look at that little face and meet the first person I’d seen who resembled me. Less than a year after her birth I met my birth mother, and though my other daughter and my grandchildren don’t look like me, it doesn’t matter because I was and am in a different place. There were and are other family who needed to physically see their connections also. I know we are all blood related and for me, that’s more than enough, quite amazing in fact.

I still feel the voids in my family history though. I recently did one of those DNA tests and am awaiting the results. In the US, except for the Native Americans we are all immigrants. What is my heritage?

An aside – a Panamanian neighbor was chatting one evening and I don’t know how we got on the subject of adoption, but he was very amazed that I knew. According to him, that fact is never talked about or revealed to anyone. One day I’ll have to ask around to find out if this is the common way of thinking in this culture. Thankfully my parents were given the good advice to tell me before I heard it from someone else, so I can’t remember not knowing. It would be a heck of a shock to find out later!

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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28 Responses to Adoption

  1. oldsalt1942 says:

    Thanks for this. We’d touched on your adoptive mom a tad but I didn’t know you’d ever met your birth parents.

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  2. ME BE in Panama says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Kris, it lets us know you better, and that’s always a good thing.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Touching post, Kris. I feel like I know you a little bit better.

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  4. indacampo says:

    What immediately came to mind as I was reading was that we are a collection or our experiences, both good and bad. I looked up the quote because you know me, I just had to know what it actually was. It’s by B.J. Neblett ~ We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.

    To me, that means that we can only hope to be the best that we can be today, to make peace with the past, and to hope for a beautiful tomorrow. It sounds to me that you made that happen for yourself. And that, my friend, is a blessing that not all find.

    Thank you for sharing your story. You’re correct, it is your blog. Blog on! 🙂

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    • You are right for sure. I also think that the hard times shape us the most. There is nothing like a bad situation to really teach us, make us think, and give us understanding for others going through similar things. I am very very fortunate and I credit my good genes a lot, and a couple very helpful counsellors. It took time but yes, i am at peace and very happy with my life.

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  5. Sunni Morris says:

    Touching post, Kris. You seem very well adjusted to me. I had no idea you were adopted. I think your adoptive parents were right to tell you so you could look up your birth parents, if you wanted to when you were old enough. It’s important for family medical history, if nothing else. We’ve had an ad in the paper this week about an adopted person trying to find her birth parents. I hope someone comes forward for her but I know not all birth parents want to be found. I think you were lucky to meet yours and are good terms with them.

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    • Ahh yes, that’s another thing that was a blank for quite a while, the medical history. Thankfully there isn’t much since both of my birth parents come from strong healthy families and had little report concerning health issues.
      Not all birth parents want to be found, and some have so many problems that you wouldn’t want to get too close. That was the case with my sister. Yes indeed I am extremely fortunate!

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  6. Emily Perez says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Kris! You have such beautiful daughters, and having gotten to know Elizabeth through all these years, I’m just blessed to have her in my life, and thus blessed that she was a part of yours. Your words are so strong. I speak with families everyday about adoption, whether it’s someone who has been adopted and never found their parents, or a child who has had parental rights severed, or aunts, uncles, grandparents, or great-aunts and uncles who are looking to adopt because a family member is in need. Although I have not had direct experience, a part of my soul has known since childhood hat I want to be there for another, whether biological or not. Your words mean so much, and as much sorrow as it seems you have been through, there is so much beauty that has come from your life. You are an inspiration and strength to so many, including me! Thank you for sharing! Sending love always!

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    • Wow, I never imagined my story would mean so much to so many. Thank you very much for your comment and thoughts. The joy in my life has far outweighed the sorrow so I am very fortunate. And yes, Elizabeth and Amy are my biggest joys! I’m sure you have seen way more than most people, so you know what a precious thing it is to have wonderful kids and a drama free family.
      BTW, I sure do love seeing your photos on Facebook, of you and your family, and that darling little boy.

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  7. Carole says:

    Great story, thanks for sharing it. Being adopted has made you the person you are now, it helped mold you. Glad to hear you had therapy so you can deal with the issues. Nice you were able to meet your birth parents. At least you were able to find them while you were young enough to enjoy them and to learn about your heritage. This is your blog, you can put anything on it you wish. If people don’t want to read it, which I sincerely doubt, they won’t. You have become a well rounded person, which is from your good genes for sure.

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    • Thank you 🙂 Yes indeed it has all worked out very well in the end. And, the hard times at the beginning sure did teach me about kindness and respect between people, and between parents and children. Thanks for your comment

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  8. Robert & Helen says:

    Brave to publish. I am not an expert, but your face looks East European. Polish or Russian.

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    • I never thought to ask my father much, but my mother thinks he may have a lot of German. My mother’s father told me he is half native American, but I don’t think she is sure if that is true. I think she thinks she is just a mix and to her, the whole subject just isn’t that important. I’ve always been drawn to Russian music and literature, so that would be interesting if it turns out to be so.

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  9. Robert & Helen says:

    My great grandfather was German and his wife Italian. The rest is pure Dutch.

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  10. Good of you to share another part of your life Kris. Seems to have taught you all the right things – about interpersonal interactions, fortitude, empathy, so much more.

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  11. Really thoughtful blog and thank you for opening yourself a bit with some history. You are obviously a well rounded individual and have made the best of your past. How wonderful that you were able to find your birth parents and keep in contact, that is a blessing. I think possibly all of that has made you a great nurse with compassion and empathy. We are our experiences as someone said above and your getting the counseling needed, I’m sure helped you put things into perspective. Wishing you all the best, dear Kris!

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    • Yes indeed, I am very fortunate in so many ways, and thankful for the inner strength passed down to me from my birth parents. Thank you so much for your kind comment 🙂

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  12. jim and nena says:

    Hi Kris, excellent post and triggered several memories for me. Your final paragraph about adoption in Panama being an unmentioned topic is mostly due to the frighteningly large number of kids produced out of wedlock by married men. Those men are often well-to-do members of Panama’s upper middle class and they often will either completely ignore the offspring or quietly provide some support to the child’s mother. It is a taboo topic outside the family. The mothers suffer hardship; the support provided, if any, is never enough and single mothers raising kids have little help from government funding.

    I know of several women, some in my wife’s family, who have raised kids with no father. Some of the kids succeeded in overcoming the hardships, others have struggled to this day. While raising our own kids, we sent what help we could spare in years past. The government in the last few decades has gotten better at going after the fathers to provide more support and recognition of their offspring. But, Panama being Panama, the laws are not applied evenly.

    Bad roads, poor infrastructure, and corruption are problems but my opinion is that the general acceptance of the behavior of these irresponsible fathers must stop and the fathers must be held accountable. Machismo should include standing up for one’s actions.
    jim

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    • Unfortunately that sort of thing goes on everywhere and I’m sure panama is no exception. Women fall for the sweet talk of some married guy, and perhaps think they can also improve their circumstances and only get badly hurt in the end along with the child. Of course there are also single guys who don’t want to take responsibility. I guess I have good friends here. I know a number of family units that aren’t married but the dad is very much present and involved as if they were. I thought in this more conservative country there wouldn’t be much living together and having children without marriage but it seems to be very accepted.

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      • jim and nena says:

        The problem is much more common in Panama City, Colón, and the big cities. David isn’t counted as a big city simply because it is located in Chiriquí. And Panama City is where the guys can get away with it because the gals are not surrounded by family. The pressure for the guys to be responsible is lots higher in rural areas just because of the family surroundings. The guys in the city are business people and not laborers so they can get involved in long lunch hours and other extracurricular activities.

        I tried to run the genealogy of Nena’s family once but the software does not allow for so many open-ended family members. 🙂

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        • Ahh ok, that makes sense. There are a whole lot of pushbuttons in Chiriqui though, and I imagine they aren’t all with the partner they are supposed to be with.

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  13. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Being able to write about it and share is a sign of health. I’m very proud of you! My ex-husband was adopted, as were his brother and sister, though none of them genetically related. He never knew his birth parents and never met them, all he knew was a little health history and that his birth parents wanted to make sure they knew they were doing it for him, as they were both in college. His sister’s mom was in high school. His other brother had an older brother and a younger sister. He did not remember them, as he was 4 years old when he was taken from his mom and lived in foster care for a year, then was adopted by my ex’s parents. I loved his mom. She was wonderful and I still miss her terribly (she has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t know anyone anymore). My mom told me that when she was a child growing up, she has eight brothers and sisters, one day her aunt came to visit with her husband and low and behold, took her brother with them when they left. Little did they know that the person they thought was their “brother” was actually their cousin, being raised by her parents. Her aunt had him out of wedlock, way back in the 40’s, when parents didn’t raise single children. It just goes to show you never know what you think you know, and you never know who you may be related to either. I was curious and did a DNA test and found out I had relatives and nationalities I never would have dreamed of. It was very interesting. But, DNA test or not, it still doesn’t change who I am. I’m still me. Thank you for sharing with us.

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    • Thank you for your comment and sharing your story. It is a subject not always talked about and I have been surprised by the stories in response to mine, and how many lives have been touched by adoption. You are right, most of us don’t know the full story of our backgrounds.

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