Adopted as a toddler

Jamey was turned away by five families before she got adopted.

Thoughts of being unwanted still plague her every now and then. This, despite living happily with her adoptive parents for 17 years. 

Jamey (not her real name) was adopted from China when she was 3 years old.

Growing up, her parents were open to her about her adoption background.

However, it is a story she finds difficult to share and has only confided in her close friends from secondary school, as she trusts them the most. "It's not necessary [to share] and it's not something I go around saying. It takes a lot of courage to say it," said Jamey.


Jamey grew up knowing that she was adopted. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/PHANG JING LIN

What's her adoption story?

The 20-year-old student shared: "It was some kind of financial issue with my biological family. What I know is that [it was due to China's] one-child policy. By then, I was already the third child and the family had four children in total." 

She added: "It was actually illegal then to have that many children. I think they decided to keep one child, and if I'm not wrong, they gave away another one."


Jamey only realised the significance of her adoption story as she grew older.
PHOTO CREDIT: JAMEY 

She learnt that her biological parents got turned away by five families before approaching her current family, who was willing to take her in.

"When my biological parents said they wanted to put me up for adoption, they asked within their own family first. I got passed around a few times within those families, but I never lasted there. I remembered that my surname kept changing," recalled Jamey, whose biological surname is Tan.

She added: "I was young then so I didn't know what was going on. But learning about it when I grew up, I did feel angry because I'm not an object.

"I always question my biological parents in my head, 'Why did you give birth to me if you didn't want me?'."


Every Chinese New Year, Jamey's biological grandparents would call her to ask how she was doing.
PHOTO CREDIT: JAMEY 

In 2012, she returned to China with her adoptive parents to visit her biological family. The experience, however, was very awkward for her.

She said: "They're the ones who gave me up. It'll always be imprinted within me. The 'label' of being 'unwanted'. A scar, I'd say."

Growing up in Singapore, she struggled with feeling inferior too. Although Jamey and her brother were both adopted, Jamey felt her brother was treated better because he was adopted from within the family.

"My adoptive parents never had children, so they adopted me and my older brother, who is actually my mum's younger sister's son," explained Jamey.

Jamey said: "Even though I wasn't ostracised by any family member or relatives, I do feel a difference…Every time when I make mistakes, my mum is very harsh on me, so I was brought up the hard way.

"I think that blood is really thicker than water. I can feel that my mum likes my brother more than me."


Till today, Jamey finds it hard to open up to others about her adoption story.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/PHANG JING LIN

While Jamey still respects her brother, who is nine years older than her, she admitted they do not have a close relationship.

She revealed: "Within a year, we barely exchange 20 sentences. It's not that we have a bad relationship, it's just that we have nothing to talk about because of our age gap and [the fact that] we are not real siblings, so there is nothing to fight or talk about."

However, she was touched when her brother bought her bubble tea as he saw her studying for her exams in secondary school. 

"That was the only time he bought things for me. I know that deep down he is very nice, but he just doesn't express himself that much," added Jamey. 

Does Jamey plans to visit her biological family again in the future?

She said: "Perhaps in the future, [I'll visit] with my adoptive parents again because they talked about going back [to China]. I'll go back with the intentions of seeing my grandparents and siblings."


Jamey hopes to return to China to visit her biological family.
PHOTO CREDIT: JAMEY

Looking back, does she hate the fact that she is an adopted child?

She revealed: "I'm not losing out, [compared to other children] out there, although there is some slight difference in treatment. In fact, I'm grateful because if [my adoption] didn't happen, I wouldn't be here feeling so fortunate and happy.

"They took me in and raised me as their own, which is already something big and special for me. They gave me the life I have right now and I can't ask for anything more."

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: JAMEY

This is part two of a series exploring how youths grew up in different environments. Also in this series:

1. Growing up adopted