Watching “Adopted,” the movie

by wendybancroft on April 13, 2009

Leah todayToday I was reminded of the film “Adopted,” available as of today as a download from the site http://www.adoptedthemovie.com. It’s a powerful film, especially for those of us involved in a transracial adoption, and especially if we have adopted from, or are adoptees from, Asia.The film documents the experience of two families–one of whom adopted a baby from Korea who is now an adult, and the other embarking on a new adoption of a baby from China. Two very different experiences as we learn.

I was reminded of the film because of a notice from Facebook of a change at their page there so I went to the page. There I saw they were asking visitors to the site whether they had seen the film so I responded that I had. I had and so had my daughter Leah and my husband. Leah, grown up and living on her own, had watched it first. Then we watched. And while we watched, I talked with Leah on MSN. Here is that conversation:

W:  Are you there? Dad and I are watching this together. I’m making notes. It’s not easy to watch some of this.
L: no it’s hard
W: We’ve just watched the beginning. They’ve been digging clams and then there is the family scene.
I am confused about my reaction. I am crying because for the first time I think, I saw the difference from the outside.I guess saw what you might have been experiencing.And saw how this might have hurt you.
W:  I don’t feel this way when I look at photographs of our family.
L:  I know.  me neither
W: Oh I’m very glad to hear you say that…about not feeling the difference in our family photos.
L:  One thing I learned is that parents want to think it’s just love that they need to give.
W: We know now that’s not the case but I think yes dad and I thought we could overcome any potential problems through love and support (ya) And by living in a mixed community which, as you say, did help.
L: yes

W: Okay…I think I can go on now (watching the movie).
L: ok
W: I like this couple who are adopting.
L: me too
W: Ah, there are the words you quoted: “adoptees are chameleons.”
L: yes and “families adopt, adoptees adapt.”
W: yes. I saw you wrote that. We haven’t come to that yet but I have thoughts about that…..We never even saw a photo of you before we met you!
…….She (baby in the film) was in foster care…had developed bonds. Was grieving. (By contrast) We felt it must have been okay for you because you were less than 6 months old…a time when babies are said to bond easily…and you bonded so quickly with us….but you must have been confused at the change in voice and touch and environment…even though you were surrounded by love.
L: yes….even though.
W: a separation….and a second separation for you.
L: ya
W: the fact that you were so responsive and happy does attest though to the love you had received before you even came to us.
L: true
W: In this way your story truly diverges from the girl in the film. You were not abandoned on a doorstep in any way.
L: I know
W: That would be so hard to live with….at the same time, her birth mother obviously wanted her to be safe and that’s why she left her on the steps of a police station.

L: my birth father abandoned me

W: Yes he abandoned your birth mother too though and to him, undoubtedly, you were not real….(then I reminded her that I was also abandoned by my birth father who broke up with my mother when she was pregnant with me. I realize I have some anger about this).

W: Moving on then with the movie.
L: k
W: “it’s not my journey, it’s our journey.”  She says this in reference to dealing with racism in her past but I guess this is what I was referring to above too re “families adopt; adoptees adapt.” We all had to adapt–it was our journey and what you were experiencing affected all of us, including Aaron and later, Karen.
L: ya I know
W: Your birth mother did not “give you up” willingly. She tried to care for you..you were with her for the first two months of your life. She came to meet us to make sure we would be good for you.
L: yeah?
W: Did you not know that?
L: I don’t know….maybe but didn’t really ‘know’…..I think I faked caring to want to know in the past
W: Yes. She was living in one room all by herself in Manila. She had no way to take care of her self except for the Diloys.
L: I’m good at faking things
W: Yes you are.
W: Do you want to know now?
L: ya
W: Okay. She was very poor. And she had not been able to find work in Manila.
L: I don’t want to know right this minute…..but soon
W: okay. I’ll tell you what I can when you’re ready.

(Later in the film)
W: They are meeting the birth mother. Dad is crying. I am watching carefully and remembering how it was meeting Gemima (Leah’s birth mother—we met her in Manila).
Oh this baby is going to have problems. She’s too old for this.
L: I kept thinking, this moment we are seeing is where it all begins
W: For you it actually began two months earlier, before you were with us.

(Later)
W: oh good! Such a happy baby! And wow is she beautiful!
L: yes very…very
W: These new parents are starting from such a more advanced state of knowledge! (ya)

(Later)
W: Who recommended this stupid movie! All we do is cry!
L: LOL I know I didn’t cry til after
W: I wish we could have been with you.

(Later, when the movie finishes).
L: it was hard seeing them in the Korean restaurant
W: at the restaurant?
L I felt that way when we visited the Zamoras (Filipino friends with a daughter Leah’s age)
W: You mean at their home? How did you feel?
L: I look like them but nothing in common
W: Right. That would have been strange with Sandy.

L: when I was little I knew I was considered special and lucky but didn’t understand why really
W: We didn’t consider you lucky. We thought WE were lucky.
L: no but people would say so
W: they did?
Who said this?
L: I don’t know…just growing up. People who didn’t know me
W: I wonder if you may have heard us talking about our experience in Manila when we first had you and were walking with you there….
L: I dunno
W: …we would meet Filipino people who would be curious about us and when we told them we were adopting you, they all said how lucky you were.
They were thinking of the poverty in the Philippines and that you were well out of it.
L: right
W: But not that you were lucky to be adopted after being “abandoned.”
W: Filipino family ties are very strong.
L: right…yes….I can see that….I saw that at the zamoras….and growing up in Vancouver….friends who were Asian etc

W: Well honey…we’re pretty wiped right now. How bout you?
Want to talk more about this now?
L: no
Okay….by for now.
L: ttyl….xoxo
W: xoxoxoxoxoxo

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