What It's Like Living In A Family With All Adopted Children

by Lauren Santye

When most people look at our family, they assume my brother and sister (who are both from South Korea) are adopted siblings and I am my parents' biological daughter.

Although it may appear this way, we are all adopted.

My parents got married in their early 20s and found out they were unable to have kids.

My mom had dreamed of having a big family, with four or five children, so it was devastating when they discovered they could not reproduce.

They chose to adopt, and my sister was the first to arrive. She was a chubby and animated baby who had only spent a couple months in Korea before she came to the US. My parents met her at the airport, completely unprepared.

Being new parents, they were unsure of what to expect; there is no guidebook for life or how to be a perfect parent.

It was the ultimate “just go with it” moment. Her plane landed around 11 pm, and my parents stood with a group of other parents who were also waiting for their babies to come off the plane.

Those were the first couple hours of my parents starting a family.

And like all new parents, they learned the ropes of parenthood through trial and error:

Just like every natural born child is different, every adopted child is different, too.

My brother’s adoption process was much harder for them. It took longer than it should have, and by the time he came to the US, he was almost 7 months old.

Next up was me. My adoption process was slightly different from that of my siblings.

My parents were so busy living their lives and taking care of my siblings that even though they wanted another child, going through the adoption process took some time and work.

I like to think I was placed into the family I have now by fate. The night I was born, my parents received a phone call from the woman who helped with my brother’s adoption.

She told them a baby girl was born and the birth mother wanted a home for her baby that has other adopted children in it. Were they interested? My parents said yes, and that’s how our family became a family of five.

Through my own personal adoption story, I have seen strength from two extraordinary women.

My birth mother was 16-years-old when she had me. During the pregnancy, her father was sick and dying from cancer, so she chose to give me up.

She wanted a better life for me and felt this was the best way to do it. That is strength. Through her courage, she gave two strangers a shot at being parents of three.

Although my parents had to endure a grieving period because they could not have children of their own, they were rewarded with three children who needed good parents.

Growing up in an adopted family has been great. But like all families, we have had our struggles along the way (some of which dealt with the fact that we were adopted).

I was always envious of children who looked like their parents and siblings.

This gave me the strange feeling I didn’t belong because I didn’t look like anyone in my family.

It was something I wanted and craved. Much later in life, my sister admitted to feeling the same way.

I struggle with how different we are.

My sister is the Type A, teacher personality; she’s the overachiever who is currently working on her doctorate.

My brother is the athlete of the family and he is also the most closed off about his emotions.

I felt like there wasn’t really a place for me. My parent’s had one kid who excelled in school, got straight As and was an amazing artist.

My brother was the star athlete; the only boy in the family and definitely a Mama's Boy.

I was the one who got good grades, but not as good as my sister. I was okay at drawing, but not even close to as good as her; was sort of athletic, but nothing to write home about.

I had even gone through a bit of a rebellious streak as a teenager. So, I felt like my older siblings already claimed all the good kid qualities.

Our personalities are all over the spectrum.

This, in turn, can cause us to clash. From adolescence up through today, we still find ourselves butting heads from time to time.

There is a part of me that couldn’t help but wonder: If we had all come from our parents and shared the same blood and DNA, would we fight or argue less? Would we get less frustrated with each other? Would we love each other more?

Although I know the answer is no and families who are blood related can argue and bicker, I still find that I can’t shake that feeling.

Our emotional battles with adoption vary.

I am Caucasian like my parents, and my brother and sister were adopted from South Korea.

When I asked them if they felt any conflicting emotions being in an adopted family, my sister’s response really surprised me: She said she struggled with trying to straddle two cultures. She "never felt American enough or Korean enough.”

For some reason, this was something that never crossed my mind. My mom was very mindful when it came to my siblings' heritage.

She didn’t ignore where they came from, and she tried to embrace and learn about it.

All three of us were sent to Korean camp for many summers (I was allowed to go to because I was adopted) and we learned all sorts of things about Korean culture.

That camp is one of my favorite summer childhood memories. She bought Korean hanboks and fans for my sister and me.

She even learned to cook some traditional Korean dishes and incorporated them into our family dinners.

But despite all that, my sister still felt like she was caught in this limbo, not really fully belonging in one culture or another.

Although there are struggles and sometimes a lack-of-belonging feeling, our love for one another is real and unwavering.

No matter how crazy we drive each other, the love is always there.

We understand that although we aren’t blood related, the love and respect we hold for one another is what makes us a family.