What it’s like to discover my adoption story at 43

By Kiu Hong

When my adoption story was revealed to me, I could only sit in a daze. I was 43 years old. Worse, I was the last person to know. Overwhelmed and confused, I struggled with a loss of identity.

Perhaps I should have known. I recall now when I was 19, my boss had asked for a copy of my birth certificate to file my employment records. Previously, Mum had always gone to school to present my birth certificate when needed. It didn’t occur to me growing up that I had never sighted my own birth certificate. 

As Mum handed the birth certificate copy to me for my boss, I saw for the very first time those two words “anak angkat” (‘adopted child’) written on it. Yet I never thought to question Mum. She was my rock. Perhaps, I preferred to be in some sort of denial. She was the only mother I had ever known.

The Confronting Truth

The story goes, that with already six children and being jobless, my biological father was unable to support yet a seventh child. So as a baby of just 6 months old, his brother (my adopted father) took me in. The family had only one son and the wife (my adopted mother) had longed for a daughter. 

Never in my mind would I have thought that my cousins were in fact my siblings.

My biological brothers.
Photo Credit to Kiu Hong

When money became scarce

But life would have it that at just 13 years old, my adopted father passed away. With all our family’s money having gone towards treating dad’s illness (and with him bedridden for 4 years before his passing), life took a hard turn.

To foot household expenses, Mum took on babysitting work. But she was physically weak, which made it difficult for her. My brother, her biological son, started working, but his income wasn’t enough to support us three. 

So Mum and I sourced for less physically strenuous work that could be done from home. That’s how we came to glue pocket files for a stationery company. Together, Mum and I ended up making enough to afford our household expenses. 

Not everyone is happy about having another family member

Being adopted per se was never a problem for me personally. But as a family, we struggled with my brother’s discontentment. 

He always felt that I had taken away his privilege of being an only child. He blamed my existence as the reason for why he couldn’t go to college. 

Over time, his resentment deepened. An emotion he had no qualms directing at Mum. Even when he finally found work in Singapore, he would make long distance phone calls from there back to Penang, just to verbally abuse Mum. 

I really didn’t like seeing Mum being treated in this manner. But still naïvely young, I said nothing at the time, trying to keep peace in the family. It was only later that I learnt that so much of his resentment stemmed from having to share his parents with an adopted sibling. 

Eventually my brother squandered our family home. I was 23 years old. And despite all those years of working in Singapore, he needed me to fund his lifestyle. To survive these obligations, I had no choice but to take on freelance work in addition to holding down a full time job. 

On the outside, everyone assumed we were happy at home. And those in the know of my adoption story, thought how lucky I was to have been adopted. They had no inkling of the turmoil in our home.

But through all the brokenness, Mum was steadfastly my life and her love was enough for me. I really lived for her. It became my privilege to take care of her until her dying day.

My rock!
Photo Credit to Kiu Hong

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger

There is positivity in every hurt and pain.

While life was hard, I never felt lesser than my friends. While most parents are spoon feeding their child, I thought of myself fortunate enough to grow street smart. I have never gone to college but managed to self-study and got my professional qualifications amidst all life’s difficulties. 

As for the stress that my brother inflicted, it made me even more determined to succeed. I decided the need to make myself stronger than him. 

The freelance work I had taken on just to fund his lifestyle, eventually grew exponentially into a successful business. Now, I can also help women in startups, to empower them to fulfill their dreams. 

I have chosen to be an optimistic person. Somehow things work out in the proper time, with proper perspective. From overcoming all the unpleasant experiences, I have developed the confidence that there is no challenge I cannot handle. 

This year in 2021, I celebrate my life as half a century old with gratefulness. I feel just like the phoenix rising from the ashes. I am glad to say that being an adopted child or coming from a broken home, is not the end. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

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