Why I Forgive

by Juliet Meiying Ercolano

[Juliet is our first guest blogger.  She was born in The People’s Republic of China and joined her “forever family” in the United States when she was six months old.   A rising senior at Baltimore School for the Arts, Juliet is a dance major.]

When I was only one month old, I lost my first family. I lived for five months in an orphanage in China sharing a crib with two other babies. Because of the shortage of food, the nannies or ayis (pronounced “eye–ease”) thickened our bottles with ground rice to keep our stomachs full. (I was so small when my family adopted me that I only weighed 11 pounds at six months old.)  I am told that we were kept tightly swaddled in blankets to keep us warm and to take the place of someone holding us because the orphanage, or “social welfare homes” as they are called in China, were understaffed.  We babies obviously spent many hours trying to entertain and soothe ourselves, because when I was adopted I had a bald spot in the back of my head from rubbing back and forth against the mattress from trying to comfort myself. My parents told me I cried the first time I saw a rattle shaken in front of my face because we did not have toys in the orphanage and seeing and hearing it scared me.

Orphanage babies in China

Babies waiting for adoption at an orphanage in China

Juliet and aunties

Orphanage “aunties” holding Juliet before she goes home with her new mom

Of course, I don’t remember any of this myself because I was so young when it happened, but I’ve heard these stories so many times and each time, they have left me feeling angry and confused. To make me feel better, my parents often reassured me that my birth mother must have loved me very much, indeed, because the orphanage told us that I was left at a crowded train station. This showed that my birth mother wanted me to be found and wanted me to have a better life, they said.

It makes me feel sad that I don’t know anything about my birth mother. I don’t even know the simplest facts that most children (even other adopted children) know, such as my mother’s name or age, or what her favorite food is, or if  I resemble her in any way. I don’t know if anyone really understands how much I wish I knew those things that most children take for granted. For years, thinking about my birth mother caused me a lot of inner turmoil, and I blamed myself a lot of the time for my birth mother abandoning me. Maybe I did something wrong that caused her not to want me, but I will never really know.

Baby Juliet

Baby Juliet

I know that if I ever had a baby, I wouldn’t separate from her for any reason at all. I would make it work, somehow and some way, no matter what. I’d  remind my precious baby girl each day how much I love her and how important she is to me and how I’d never let her out of my sight. The feeling of not being good enough still haunts me to this day. If I am not “perfect,” I fear that people will walk right out of my life. That anxiety – of being left – is something I’m still working hard to overcome. It was particularly bad when I was in kindergarten. From the time one of my parents dropped my off at the classroom to the end of the day at pick up time, I would worry: What if they don’t come back? I remember crying every single school day, terrified  that my mom or dad would forget to pick me up and would end up leaving me and never coming back to get me, the way my birth mother left me that day in the train station.  The other children in my class didn’t understand and couldn’t reassure me. I felt different from the rest of them and thought something must be wrong with me. I made myself feel sick every morning, just anticipating the end of the day. I was taken to a child therapist for awhile, but it did not help much. I was too shy to talk and all I can remember during those sessions was she made me draw and play a bunch of games.  Luckily, a year later, my older sister joined my school and I felt a sudden sense of security knowing she was in the same building I was in and I no longer cried at school. My attachment issues with my parents got better year after year and I no longer was afraid to go to school.

Juliet standing at the wall

18-year-old Juliet today

The good news is that now that I am older, I don’t think about my adoption as an upsetting thing at all. Of course, at times I wish I had more information about what led to my being adopted and about my birth family, but mostly I don’t think about it. I don’t feel any different from a girl living with the parents who gave birth to her. My adopted parents are my parents, not my “adopted” parents.  I have two mothers—one who gave me life and the other who let me live it. My family is the one in America. I no longer associate feeling anger with my birth mother.  I find myself feeling more grateful and happy (that I ended up in a family with parents who really wanted me and could take care of me) than upset.

Though I have struggled with my adoption at times, especially as a young kid, I now honor my birth mother’s choice. If she hadn’t decided to give me up, everything as I know now would be altered dramatically including all the people in contact with me. I would be living a completely different lifestyle. I thank my birth mother as often as I think of her for giving me a loving family and safe place to live.

In short, I have forgiven my birth mother for the hard thing she did.  It was hard for me,  of course, but I am now mature enough to realize that it must have been very difficult for her, too. I realized at some point that I was embracing my negative feelings as a way of staying attached to my birth mother, who I never really knew and whose circumstances I could never really understand.  I recognized that it would be foolish not to let go of those bad feelings, which were hurting me and making it harder for me to appreciate and enjoy the life I had now. Forgiveness was a letting go of the bad and a letting in of the good.  And that is why I forgive.

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing the story of your adoption, Juliet. It’s a great example of how the obstacles in our lives can help define us — not by their presence, but by how we overcome them. You are doing a wonderful job of that!

  2. Juliet, thanks so much for posting your experiences as an adoptee. You are courageous and generous to share such deep feelings. My heart goes out to your younger self, and I rejoice that at age 18, you have gotten past such sadness, anger, and worry.

    Your essay is also the second one about forgiveness I have read this morning. (I think the heavens are trying to tell me something today.) Here is part of the other essay: “Feeling wronged, burdened or victimized is no way to live. Unfortunately, the act of forgiveness is often our last resort. Learn the importance of forgiving early and freely for your own sake….Holding on to grievances is really a decision to suffer….” I’m so glad you have been able to let go and be free!

  3. Barbara Crawley says:

    Hi Juliet, Thank you for sharing the moving and powerful story of your journey towards forgiveness. Your voice is strong and filled with a wisdom that many (much) older people find still eludes them. The ability to forgive is one of the most difficult challenges many people face throughout their lives, and you have already figured it out and moved past!

    • Juliet Ercolano says:

      Thank you so much for reading my essay. I am grateful to Marisha and Luanne for the opportunity to open discussion about adoption issues and look forward to many more conversations.
      – Juliet

  4. Amy DeNike says:

    Juliet- You know I love you more than anything and I am so happy you came to join our family! I am proud to be your aunt in this family! I love you!!!!

  5. Dottie Parker says:

    When we forgive others, we imitate God…we spit out the bitter pill we have held in our mouths…it is only then that we can appreciate the sweetness of life. Thanks for sharing this, Juliet! LOVE YOU.

  6. Fantastic article, Juliet! I am so proud of you for coming so far- healing the shame, pain, and bad feelings towards your adoption/birth mother. . . . Every child needs to be appreciated and celebrated. I know for a fact that you could not have gone to a better home. Even though I have not met your mother, she is a facebook friend, and a friend of Keeley’s. I’ve heard about you and your sister on a regular basis for the past 5 years. You make your parents proud, and I’m proud of you too! Keep up the writing, and keep up the great work you do. Can’t wait to see what other great accomplishments you create with your life!
    Your pal,
    Cat

  7. Reblogged this on Don't We Look Alike? and commented:

    Reblogging Juliet’s popular story. Enjoy!

  8. Great story Ms. Juliet. I think it is so hard to consider the consider the birth mother’s feelings and reasons, especially as time lapses. Certainly everyone has their own reasons and none of them are easy.

  9. I cried as I read about your struggles and hope my daughter, also adopted from China, can make peace with her Chinese mother’s hard choice. I pray that her Chinese mother has also found peace with her decision. My daughter is only three now, but she loves to hear about her adoption and what she was like when we first got her in China. I know she will feel the loss and sadness at times in her life, but your article gave me a real understanding to the true feeling of abandonment she may feel.

  10. Joyce Cole says:

    Juliet, what a lovely girl you have always been, and what a strong, talented, wonderful young woman you have become. It breaks my heart that you wondered what you may have done wrong and that you worried that you would be abandoned; I guarantee you that you did nothing wrong, and of course it is obvious how deeply your family loves you, no matter what! You have so many strengths and a great life ahead of you. Your birth mother would be very proud to see you!!

  11. Thank you for sharing with all of us. The forgiveness you extend is freedom for your birthmother and for you, too. May your find happiness around every corner! -Tim

Trackbacks

  1. […] a blog written by one such adoptee and her mother – all about adoption, from their vantage point. Why I Forgive was a compelling post from a young girl about her feelings towards her birth mother. Diary of a […]

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