Mia Yamada-Heidner

Yichun, Jiangxi to Seattle, Washington

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About me

Age: 17

Age at Adoption: 1 year

Interests: Cooking/Baking, Traveling, Listening to music

 

When did you realize your story is different?

For as long as I can remember, I knew I was adopted. My parents were always open to discussing my adoption and never made me feel bad for asking questions about it. I could also tell my story was different because my family celebrated my Gotcha Day (the day that I met them and was adopted), which none of my friends knew about or celebrated.

 

How was your experience growing up?

I am lucky to say that I grew up in a pretty diverse neighborhood, but growing up, I have found it difficult to relate to my peers whose parents were first-generation Chinese immigrants. They spoke Chinese at home with their parents and celebrated all of the traditional Chinese holidays, and I was always a bit jealous that my parents couldn’t speak Chinese to me and that we never really celebrated the Chinese holidays. As much as I tried, it seemed my Chinese skills were never as good as my Chinese peers. A lot of the time I felt embarrassed, especially when I traveled back to China, that my Chinese was not very good. 

My sister is also a Chinese adoptee, and it has been nice having another person in my household who has the same background, but my sister has never been as interested in that part of her identity as I have been. Growing up, and even now, people would think my sister and I are biologically related, but we are not. That assumption never really bothered me in my youth, but now I put more effort in clarifying that my sister and I were born in two different Chinese provinces.

 

How does your community view adoption?

In my local community, adoption seems relatively common, but it is not often acknowledged nor discussed. Thankfully no one has teased or bullied me for being adopted, but growing up, I did receive weird stares and comments like, “That’s your mother?” when I was out with my white mother, which bothered me a lot. 

 

What have you learned from your experience? How has it affected you?

In the past couple of months, I have begun to understand the importance of having a safe and supportive community for adoptees. As an adoptee, I have grown up with a lot of unknowns in my life in terms of my family background, and it has been nice to be able to talk to people who have experienced similar thoughts and feelings as me.

This past August, I started Sisters of China, a community organization dedicated to uniting female Chinese adoptees of all ages by providing them a safe space to share their stories, discuss challenges, and celebrate their heritage. I have enjoyed being able to bond with the members through various online platforms like Facebook, Zoom, and Discord. 

 

What is something you would like non-adoptees to know?

Adoption is different for every adoptee. While my experience as an adoptee has overall been positive, I know that other adoptees have other opinions and thoughts about their experiences as an adoptee. Please do not assume that we all have the same ideas about adoption. 

Also, non-adoptees should refrain from reminding adoptees to be grateful that they were adopted. Just because we were adopted into a different family does not mean our life in our adopted country is perfect. Many adoptees still experience trauma from being adopted.

 

How do you want your story to impact others?

When I was younger, I used to brush off being adopted because I felt like it made me stick out, and I just wanted to fit in with the rest of my peers. But in the past year, I have begun to embrace my Chinese adoptee identity more because I have seen other Chinese adoptees have pride in their Chinese adoptee background. I hope by sharing my story, I, too, will be able to inspire other Chinese adoptees to share their own experiences. 

 
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Thank you so much for reading! 

If you are interested in connecting, feel free to contact me at @miaayh_ 

Also, please check out @sistersofchina (www.sistersofchina.wordpress.com). We would love to have you join!