An Identity Built By Adoption

Over the summer, Holt held our first adoptee essay contest. We asked adoptees to respond to the question, “How has adoption shaped or how does adoption currently shape your identity?” Below, adoptee Abby Lindner — a finalist in our contest — shares how adoption has shaped her identity, and empowered her to become “a daughter of faith and hope who most definitely belongs.”

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Abby with her family. Abby (second from left) stands alongside her mom Cheryl, sister Emma, dad Rick and little brother Matthew.

In 1948, the first recorded transracial adoption in the U.S. instigated a debate among social workers, parents and others on whether adoption across racial borders helped or harmed. Again and again, opponents cited the identity crisis that transracially adopted children would experience as a result of their mixed circumstances.

Eventually, everyone faces the same question: Who am I? During the teenage years especially — the bridge between childhood and adulthood — the question demands an answer. At 16 years old and ending sophomore year, the inquiry of “Who am I?” often passes through my mind. Contrary to what transracial adoption opponents predict, however, I always have an answer.

As was and is typical with Chinese adoptions, my parents know little about my origins. I entered the world around December 28, 1999, a healthy girl in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province. The orphanage found me not long after birth and named me Guo Yu Fu. Yu Fu means Jade Blessing.

At nine months, I entered the world of white, middle-class America as Abigail, which means “Father’s joy” or “gives joy.” Opponents of transracial adoption would indicate that the dearth of information on my past in addition to exposure to a primarily white community complicated and even threatened my identity development. This, however, was not so. Why?

First and foremost, I knew early who I was in Christ. In the early 1990s, God called my parents to adopt from China. Policy at the time, however, barred them from adoption. After years of prayer, China’s policies changed, and my parents began the long adoption process that led them to me. The reason for my abandonment is a mystery. Did poverty drive my biological parents? Medical complication? The one-child policy? Whatever it may be, God had a plan for me in the events that unfolded. He carried and delivered me to the home He intended.

At 2 ½, God demonstrated even more His extraordinary love and care for me. Though listed as healthy, symptoms of asthma long plagued me. Omniscient, God orchestrated that my parents meet with the right doctor, who discovered what others hadn’t: a hole in my heart. Left unrepaired, I wouldn’t live past 3. With God’s direction, my family found the right surgeon at the right hospital at the right time, and I left surgery with a repaired heart and a scar on my chest that reminds me of how great a Father I have.

Never have I doubted that God always stands beside me. My adoption — the right time, the right place, the right family — especially confirms this truth.

This “right family” that adoption gave me is the second reason for the confidence in my identity. In addition to me, my parents had my older brother and sister, their biological children and my 6-week-older sister, adopted from eastern China. Though the differences between me and my parents and older siblings were obvious — skin, hair, eyes, nose — the contrasts didn’t disconcert me. In fact, as far as I was concerned, there were no differences!

When I imagine the “quintessential family gathering,” I hear comments from grandparents and aunts about “my, how tall she’s grown, just like her mother” and “oh, how much he looks like his father.” Those are blood ties. Remarks like those affirm belonging in a family based on similar physical characteristics. Blood ties don’t tie me to my family. Rather, ties stronger than blood bind me. I don’t belong to my family because my DNA fits with theirs, but because my heart fits with theirs.

Out of love, I was adopted. By love, I belong. Once again, rather than dividing me from my identity, adoption draws me closer.

Third — last but not least — adoption has granted me a unique lens through which to see the world. Mine is a story of God’s love, a family’s love and my love, divinely woven together. I was an orphan with a hole in my heart, an orphan to whom the devil would love to tell of hopelessness and unwantedness. Shepherded from that fate, I became a daughter with a patch to cover and love to fill my heart, a daughter of faith and hope who most definitely belongs.

With such a story, how can I not acknowledge the beauty through the world’s mire, discover the hope beneath desperation, or see the light of truth through the darkness of falsehood? I love to learn more about that beauty, hope and light, whether through books or through my own experience. Words within me demand release, to show others my view, through my lens. And maybe, through my writing and my actions, the mire, desperation and darkness will ebb, if only a little.

So it is that my adoption has far from confused me about my identity. Rather, my adoption has helped build it.

“Who are you?” the world asks. “Certainly, you don’t know.”

Oh, but I do.

I am Yu Fu. I am Abigail. One language says I am a blessing; the other, a joy. I pray to fulfill those meanings.

I am a daughter to amazing parents and a child of God.

I am a young woman striving to be the best possible version of me.

I am a reader of literature, a writer of stories, a learner of everything and an observer of beauty.

I am all of this through the adoption of a 9-month-old girl from southern China years ago.

Abby Lindner | Attleboro, MA

3 Replies to “An Identity Built By Adoption”

  1. What a beautiful essay. My husband and I adopted our daughter, Tia from China in 2011. I pray she’s just as happy about her life as Abby is.

    Much love

  2. As I write this tears are streaming. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am a mother to a sweet little girl, adopted in 2014 from China. My greatest desire for her is that she would know that she was always known & seen, always loved by her Creator. I pray that she will be able to see with clarity as you have – knowing that He has a plan and a purpose for her, and that He has created and is creating beauty from brokenness – weaving her life with ours for unique purpose. Your words have been a precious gift today, thank you!

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