Listening to Adoptees: A Chat with Britta Hoffman
Last time on the blog, Hannah Eloge of Kindred and Co encouraged our community to listen to birth moms, expectant parents, and adoptees. That’s why we’re especially excited to share today’s blog. This month we sat down with Britta Hoffman, one of the Storytellers of our adoption community. Britta chatted with us about her experience of being an adopted child and how her life has been impacted by adoption.
First, can you tell us a little bit about your story and how adoption is a part of your life?
My adoptive parents were unable to have children of their own and wanted a family, so they chose to adopt domestically. After arriving in the world, I was placed in foster care for about a month and then adopted through a local adoption agency. When I turned 4, my adoptive parents adopted another baby and I became a big sister. Having a younger adopted brother made adoption very normalized in our home.
My parents had some good friends in the same season who adopted from the same agency. The little girl they adopted & I shared the same foster parent before going to our forever homes. We had the opportunity to grow up together, attending the same school, having endless playdates, family vacations, and process being adopted. I’d say having an adopted sibling and an adopted best friend are some of the unique things about my adoption story.
Do you remember when you understood you were adopted? When did your parents tell you?
I have always known I was adopted. My parents told my brother & I that we were adopted from as early on as I can remember. There was an open dialogue that was never off limits for discussion.
Every year growing up, we each were celebrated with a “Gotcha Day”. These are the days that my parents “got” my brother and I. The day we became a part of our family. We would celebrate by going out to dinner, the movies, having friends over…our choice. I have always loved celebrating this special day, being adopted into a loving family and all of the meaning that it has held for my life.
What are your feelings as an adult about being adopted? What are your feelings towards your birth parents?
Because I grew up knowing I was adopted, I’ve had my whole life to process a lot of feelings in different stages of life. Now, as an adult, I view my being adopted as just part of my story. It is part of who I am. It has allowed me to learn, grow and view the world through a unique lens and I am thankful for that.
Over the years, my feelings towards my birth parents have morphed and changed. I’ve gone through all the stages of anger, grief, rejection, abandonment, and confusion to now include feelings of sympathy and understanding.
Was your adoption open or closed?
My adoption was closed. My adoptive parents received several pages of information about my biological parents. My birth father wasn’t in the picture, but we received a little bit about my birth mother’s story, occupation, hobbies, along with some heritage and health information. Having this background was really nice growing up. Some days when I was grasping to figure out how I fit in, I’d read this information and it helped fill in some gaps.
Have you ever wanted to find your birth parents?
I use to play it through in my head, what it would be like meeting my birth parents. My birth mother was a career woman who didn’t want to be a parent, or a single parent, so she chose adoption for me. I would want to meet her to see who I look like, to distinguish the “nature vs. nurture” parts of my personality.
An adoption counselor once told me, to meet your birth parents is like opening Pandora’s box. This advice has stuck with me. Opening that door, has the potential for anything to happen. Emotions and information that has been settled could be brought into question, cause new questions and possible emotional unraveling. Unless I had big health questions arise, I am happy living the life I’ve been given and content with my current story.
Have you ever struggled to make sense of your story as an adopted person?
My parents raised me to belong with a sense of community and purpose. I view being adopted as just part of my story, not something that defines the rest of my story. I feel that everyone, whether adopted or not, struggles at some point to make sense of their story – whether it’s about a job, relationship or a decision that may alter their current path. I’ve definitely had those moments, but don’t relate it to my adoption, but just as the natural choices that must be made in order to live life well.
Did you ever go through a time when you were upset or uncomfortable with being adopted?
Yes! I specifically remember as a teenager, feeling all the feelings. I would sit in the car with my friend who was also adopted and we would cry together. Tears of confusion, rejection, and anger. Why us? It was so comforting to have a friend who was going through the same process and that could relate. My parents were also very good about having an open dialogue with me whenever those heavy feelings would creep up.
What would you say to couples who are considering adoption?
Adoption is an amazing journey. Whether you’re considering domestic or an international adoption, be sure to do your research and familiarize yourself with the process and how it might impact you and your family. Walk through the highs and lows with your adopted child. Connect with others that are adoptees, adoptive parents, etc so you don’t feel quite as different, and so your kids feel like they belong. Having a sense of stability, community and the presence of those that can relate will create confidence and belonging.
Is there a difference between how you feel about adoption as an adult, and how you felt about adoption as a child?
Yes, there is a difference between how I felt about adoption as a child and now as an adult. As a child, being adopted meant that I knew I was special and different than other kids but it wasn’t the focus of my childhood. Other children would sometimes ask questions but I never felt rejected or viewed as different by them.
As an adult, I am more aware of people’s responses and the stereotypes that come from different views of adoption. I’ve had people say things like, “You’re adopted? You seem so normal for an adopted person,” or “adopted people have issues.” Along with a wide variety of opinions and follow up questions. Because of these stereotypes, I generally wait until I am comfortable with a person before mentioning that part of my story.
I would also say that as a grownup, I have found that I am more sensitive on my birthday and Mother’s Day. These days hold unanswered questions, and while I have learned to deal with my emotions in a healthy way, those two days still tend to hold more emotion than others.