A Decade On
A decade has passed since I was last in Haiti and that’s heartbreaking for me. As a Haitian-Canadian adoptee I vowed to return yearly after my 2007 trip but alas life has thrown me several curve balls which have prevented this from occurring. My 2007 trip marked a milestone, returning to my country of birth after leaving 27 years beforehand. What I experienced was a true love affair with Haiti and I’m so excited to return and embrace it again in the near future.
I have mourned the loss of my biological family in a deeper way over these 10 years because of several major life events. When the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010 I was devastated for all the loss of life and I grew incredibly concerned about my unnamed family and wondered endlessly about their safety. Once I had my biological daughters, I felt a deep sadness for the lack of information I had; no medical history, no bloodline, no comparisons of who my girls resembled in my family, there was a void and I felt all this loss so deeply.
After I suffered two miscarriages, I felt profoundly connected to my birth mother and empathized with the loss she suffered of relinquishing me regardless of the circumstances. I was so wounded by losing my babies who I never got to know I wondered if she also felt this when I left her a day or two after my birth? This pain was unbearable. What has sustained me through these extremely traumatic events has been my ability to grieve the loss of my birth family something I didn’t have the opportunity to do when I was a child, because I was constantly told that I should be ‘grateful’ for being adopted. This time I was in control and I could grieve in the ways that were best for me which included mourning, writing and receiving specialized adoption therapy. Although the loss is still prevalent, learning coping strategies has supported my healing process.
Creating my Identity
I believe due to the losses I’ve experienced family connectivity is of greater significance to me and that has manifested in several ways; DNA Testing, creating my own family and unifying my family. I had a breakthrough in discovering new information about my biological ancestral family by conducting DNA tests (something not available in 2007). I discovered my descendants are from Cameroon, Congo, Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast and Ghana and I connected to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins which is a big step in helping me to identify my immediate family. It continues to be a lengthy process but one which I’m determined to persevere until I find the answers I’ve been searching for.
I’ve also created my own family unit which includes my husband and our three daughters aged 16, 6 and 2. I’m loving teaching and learning more about Haiti with my husband and our girls and I’m excited by how much they love and embrace their Haitian culture. Recently I’ve been spending more quality time with my (adoptive) family and I cherish these relationships, I love creating memories and capturing these special times with lots of pictures. I’ve always been a connector in my family and friendship groups. I take it upon myself to create spaces and celebrations to unite my networks. I love having loved ones around me. I also use these opportunities to share with my family and friends my experiences as a black woman including the challenges I face and the differences in how I parent my children preparing them to manage the outside world. My children are also impacted by my adoption as they experience the same quizzical stares and curiosity when they are out with my family. I’ve noticed my mother verbally ‘claiming’ her grandchildren when we are out in stores and my niece was very taken aback with just how nosy people are after she experienced the stares and puzzled expressions as we walked through the mall with my younger two daughters. It’s a new experience for my family to “walk in my shoes”. I also enjoy sharing my Haitian culture with them. It’s important that just as I adopted THEIR culture, they remember that adopting me includes ALL of me including my “Haitianess”. I’m happy when they receive what I share with them and it’s exciting for me to watch my girls also impart this knowledge to them. It’s so important for all those involved in the adoption community to remember that adoption is truly a lifelong journey.
My two families
I will forever have two families, I will forever be a part of two worlds, I choose to embrace and celebrate them both. Some people view my embracing of both of my cultures and families as a disservice to one or the other, but then again, I didn’t choose to be separated from birth family I didn’t choose my adoptive family. Both are a part of me as I am a part of them. I have African-Haitian blood running through my veins and Canadian, Scottish, Ukrainian and American values which have helped form me into who I am. I am proud of my biological and adopted cultures and the identity I have crafted for myself and the legacy I am passing on to my children. My family trees are not yet full and therefore my search will continue until I find more answers and family connections. I’ve lost and gained lots along my journey thus far but through it all I’m proud of my Haitian-Canadian identity I’ve carved out for myself.