- Sami Jackman
Made in China: My Adoption Story
I was born in Fujian Province in China on the 5 December 1997, but when I was just 11 months old I was adopted by my mum and dad and came to North London, where I have lived ever since. I know absolutely nothing about my birth parents or why I was put up for adoption, but it is most likely due to China’s one child policy which was first implemented in 1979 as a stringent way to regulate the overpopulation. I am unsure whether it was because my birth parents already had another child, would have preferred a son, or simply because they wanted a better life for me. I guess I may never know. But what I do know is that for whatever reason it was I feel grateful that they did and for the wonderful life that my parents have given me ever since. I am a strong believer in fate, and as cringy as it may sound, I do believe that it was meant to be.
Mini Me at the hotel in China with Mum and Dad
My parents have always been very open about my adoption and my childhood is full of really happy memories. Their love has been unconditional, as it would have been for any child that they would have had naturally. After many unsuccessful attempts of trying to have a baby themselves, they had almost lost hope until their idea of adopting a child from China became a reality. One day they asked me if I wanted a younger sister and of course said yes! So, when I was six years old we adopted my sister Anna from Hubei, China and our little family was complete.
Taken at Anna’s Christening and an excuse for me to dress up in a traditional Chinese dress
My parents always tried to introduce Chinese culture into my life from an early age, such as enrolling me into Chinese school to learn Mandarin and celebrating Chinese New Year every year. Unfortunately, I hated going to Chinese school every week as I found learning the language so difficult and I felt really out of place especially, since all of the other children had Chinese parents and were much better at Mandarin than me! I remember at one parents’ evening the teachers suggested to my very English parents that they should try and practice speaking Chinese to me at home to help me pick it up better (I think we all just laughed at this). It is safe to say I didn’t last very long there, and although since then I have tried learning Chinese with various tutors I never had enough motivation to pick it up, which is something I slightly regret now.
When I consider whether I identify more as being Chinese or English, I sometimes feel like I am somewhere in between. Although I may look Chinese, I don’t feel very Chinese, as I have adapted so much to English culture and way of living and have never known anything different. I think that I feel the most English when I am in Asia or if someone tries to talk to me in Chinese, as they assume I can understand them when in reality I have no clue what they are saying!
Because of these preconceptions, it can sometimes be difficult to answer questions about where I am from or more specifically “where are your parents from?” as most people I meet for the first time would probably be confused when I say that both are from England. I will never forget the time we were on holiday eating at a Chinese restaurant and seeing the waitress’s confusion at how me and my sister could possibly be my parent’s children and the way she said: “How do you make Chinese babies?!”.
Sisters by family not by blood
Questions I often get asked when people find out that I am adopted are “Do you know who your real parents are?” or “Do you ever want to find your real parents?”. I can sometimes find this strange to answer because to me, my real parents are my mum and dad who raised me, and I have learnt that family is not defined by blood but rather those who love and nurture you. So, for me, I do not feel like I have any connection to my biological parents, apart from our genes.
Therefore, I have always been quite against the idea of going back to China and finding my birth parents as I don’t know what more they could give to me that my mum and dad haven’t already. But more recently, I have started opening up to the idea about going back and learning more about where I came from. It is amazing that due to the advance in DNA testing it has enabled many adoptees to be reunited with their birth families and I can’t imagine what that would feel like. Perhaps for me it will be a plan for the future, but for now I am quite happy with the unknown.
I think that adoption is such a beautiful thing, not just because it is ‘a good thing to do’ but through the way that it brings families together with so much love and happiness. I feel lucky to say that I have two cultures I can embrace and an amazing family to support me. I hope that by me sharing my story is a way to reflect this.