Sex trafficking and illegal adoptions are dangers many children in poor and war-torn countries face. Even here in the United States, vulnerable children are sold into underground markets. We hear the statistics, but the children are often soon forgotten in our minds.
But one survivor of illegal trafficking vividly remembers the day she was stolen (by a predatory ‘godparent’) and sold to a white Canadian family who thought they were participating in a legal adoption, her heartbroken parents left to wonder for 29 years what happened to their daughter.
The essay, published on ForHarriet, is absolutely gut-wrenching.
“At three years old, my memory had been reset. My first memory is the ride on the airplane that would eventually take me to Canada. I remember being sick, throwing up all over myself and crying. Trying to cope with the trauma of being uprooted from my family, my brain had does its best to make me forget everything I left behind. And perhaps for good reason. Because this summer, I found out the real story of my adoption.
For most of my life, I knew very little about my adoption. I was told that my parents had placed me in an orphanage because they were too poor to take care of me. My adoption papers listed my name, my place of birth, and parents’ occupations as farmers.
Almost everything else in my adoption papers was a lie. My birthday was changed to make me younger, and a backstory was invented to make me seem more adoptable. My parents signed no papers and were not aware of my adoption. I left Haiti without my parents’ knowledge. But how was that even possible?
My mother sent me and my two older sisters to live with my godmother, one of her close friends who ran an orphanage in Carrefour. My godmother promised my mother she would send us to school. My mother had hopes that her three daughters would be educated, but adoption was never the plan. My mother would visit us often, bringing fresh fruit and vegetables from our yard. When I was sick, she would breastfeed me, rocking me until I stopped crying.
Until one day I was gone. My godmother had arranged my adoption. Papers were forged, money was handed over, and I was gone.”
Mariette Williams eventually tracked down and reunited with her mother and siblings in Haiti (her father had since passed away), but says the experience left her irreparably damaged.
“It’s foolish to think my life is suddenly fine now that we have reunited. That I can just forget about the last 29 years. My adoption has had an impact on every single aspect of my life. The absence of my mother has affected my friendships, my marriage, the way I parent my children, and my identity.
I am hyper aware of how others perceive me, wanting to always project an image of someone who is well adjusted, emotionally balanced, and normal. But under that facade, I vacillate between an intense fear of rejection and severe feelings of apathy towards everyone around me. My entire life I have battled low self esteem, my personal accomplishments a thin veneer over the gaping hole where my mother’s love should have been.”