One Child Nation: One Chinese Adoptee’s Thoughts

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** Disclaimer (that shouldn’t be necessary, but somehow is): These are my initial thoughts as I process the documentary. They are in no way reflective of every Chinese adoptee and can change as I work through more of my own story. **

Before I had started my advocacy work, I was aware that much of the information given to my family about my pre-adoptive life could be inaccurate. Birth date, the location where I was found, the age at which I was found, all of it. I had a hard time processing this knowledge without being triggered. I am lucky that for 2 out of the 3 places where I lived in China, I am connected with the people who cared for me and can provide accurate information of my pre-adoptive life.

When the One Child Policy ended in 2015, I was incredibly confused about my feelings. I penned an essay that described the complex emotions for a policy that gave me the loving adoptive family I have today, yet denied me a life with the family that brought me into this world. It was that essay and being triggered by subsequent questions that started my advocacy work.

As I queued up One Child Nation, I was very nervous about the images I was going to see. I was already aware of how strict the policy was, but especially with National Adoption Awareness Month and World Adoption Day, I was preparing myself to be triggered.

There were many moments when I teared up listening to how this policy affected families. I felt concern about whether this documentary might unintentionally promote the white savior complex. I was a bit perplexed when it was stated, “…it is actually very common that adoptees do not want to contact their birth families.”

I found it easier to watch than I expected… perhaps because I prepared myself for what I was about to see and already had a knowledge of what was going on in China.

Also, keep in mind I am 25 years old and at a specific point in processing my story. I could watch again today, next week, or next year and find it unbearable to watch. A lot of the documentary can be triggering to all adoptees, in addition to not being suited for young adoptees.

Overall, I feel about the same as I did before I watched. I feel the same as I did in 2015 when the policy ended. I feel the same as I did for as long as I remember.

I feel sadness for Chinese families and more specifically, Chinese women without a choice. I watched in disgust as people recalled forced sterilizations and abortions used to implement the family planning policy. I closed my eyes and furrowed my brow hearing about both the intentional and unintentional deaths of baby girls born to families who desired a son.

I felt comforted as family members spoke of abandoning girls as a way to let them survive. It was calming to hear that these families experience grief and still think about their missing children. I was reminding that the bond between a child and their biological family is strong.

I feel strong knowing that I survived it. I went from a government orphanage, to a private group home, to a foster family, to an adoptive family by the time I was six months old, and I survived it.

I feel appreciative that I am alive and was matched with such a loving and supportive adoptive family. I try to imagine exploring my story and identity without their support and willingness to learn, and it seems impossible.

I remain wary knowing that while brutally honest about the family planning policy, perspectives and stories are unique, and this narrative may not be the same for everyone. I stay open to all possibilities and continue to validate adoptees’ stories.

I feel grief for a family I will likely never know. I think about the policy I was born under, and I question if my family ever hopes to reunite with me. I wonder how many family members even know I exist. I picture living the rest of my life never knowing someone to whom I am biologically related.

I feel hopeful that with new technologies and a strong community of advocates, adoptees may reunite with their first families and finally get the answers to all of their questions.

I feel confused.

There are so many emotions inside… all fighting to be felt the strongest. But I feel all of it and everything in between. I have accepted the fact that I will always feel confused. With or without answers, I will always feel conflicting emotions about my story as I grieve one identity and take pride in another. But, I remember that all of those feelings and thoughts are part of me and part of my story. I cannot ignore them, and I must acknowledge all of them to be me.

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