29 [S2 E8] Mariette - A Restless Heart

Mariette Williams tells us about her experiences as a Haitian adoptee growing up in Vancouver, Canada, and later finding out that her adoption was non-consensual. We touch on some things that transracial adoptees may struggle with and Mariette gives us her perspective on adoption reform.

Topics We Discussed

  • Adopted at the age of 3, moved to FL for college; searched at the age of 32 for her birthmother
  • Reached out to a Facebook group moderator (for the town she was born in) who found her family in Haiti within a week
  • First conversation with her birthmother was through a translator on the phone, her mother wanted to know about her life, her kids, her husband, it was “surreal”.
  • Mariette’s mother didn’t know where Mariette was…her adoption was non-consensual. A caregiver her mother trusted a friend to take Mariette to an orphanage to educate them. The woman instead was arranging adoptions for all the children in this orphanage. Mariette’s mother would come and visit her at the orphanage and one visit, Mariette was just gone.
  • Mariette is working on a memoir
  • When she found out her adoption was non-consensual, she was angry, in disbelief, but it’s been two years and she’s been able to work through the shock.
  • The one thing Mariette “knew” about herself growing up was that her mom had given her up for a better life, but all of a sudden she found out that wasn’t true. “It really shakes you, it was difficult.”
  • When Mariette’s adoptive mother was in Haiti to adopt her, it took a month and there were red flags, but she just felt she needed to get Mariette home.
  • Mariette found her family in 2014, and went to Haiti in 2015 to visit her family with a reporter from the Associated Press.
  • Haitians speak mostly Creole and French, and Mariette learned French in school in Canada. So they mostly communicate in French!
  • Marietta had been to Haiti twice before on missions trips, the third trip was to meet her family.
  • Special moment was her mother confirming her birth date. Actually knowing the exact date was incredibly important to Mariette.
  • Some of the parts of the story that was reported were far from what Mariette had experienced. She wrote a piece in response to the article that the AP published. The comments on her article were “brutal”.
  • “I’m grateful that my story was told” but she wished there were a few things that were differently.
  • Advice for adoptees that are going through a public reunion (in some fashion): it helps to have a good network of support around you. You also need a really thick skin! What things are said on the internet aren’t real, and remember what’s real life.
  • International adoptions are decreasing, Mariette thinks this is a good thing. If adoption is absolutely necessary (a true orphan), it should be within the country to keep their cultural connection. We need to support mothers! People are paying $30,000 - $50,000 for an adoption and waiting two to four years, and why couldn’t that money support keeping a family together?
  • In Vancouver, Mariette had a good childhood. There weren’t a lot of black people in her area, so that’s one of the reasons she moved to Florida.
  • Mariette believes it’s hard for white parents to prepare their children for racism. Adoptive parents often take the colourblind route, and Mariette doesn’t think that is helpful. Kids need to learn about their culture and heritage instead of ignoring it.
  • Going back at age 18 to Haiti was difficult. She hadn’t really “grappled with her adoption”. Going on a missions trip was different than just going to visit the country.
  • Mariette organized a cultural trip for Haitian adoptees to return to Haiti for the summer of 2017. Instead of a poverty tour, this is a way to experience Haiti and see its beauty and culture. Here’s a link to her Facebook Group for Haitian Adoptees.
  • Blogging actually convinced Mariette to search for her family!
  • She’s felt connected to other adoptees through blogging, Facebook groups and twitter.
  • Ways to heal: writing has been really important, having hard conversations with her adoptive mother has been helpful. Finding out her truth has helped as well.
  • Mariette doesn’t like to say that her adoption happened for a reason because it minimizes the pain that her birthmother experienced from losing her. But she has this positive spin that because of what’s happened she’s able to help other Haitian adoptees (with her Facebook group and the trip she’s organizing, among her other activism).
  • Mariette “always had a restless heart”. She wanted to know where she came from. Her adoptive mom says it might be because her birthmother was calling Mariette back to her.
  • Mariette’s adoptive family kept her name which helped her find her biological family. There’s a few different ways Mariette credits to a higher power that has influenced where she is today in her reunion.
  • Mariette is still in contact with her family in Haiti. She helped her mother rebuild and repair her home, and then the hurricane came through and decimated everything. She helped them again to rebuild their home.
  • How has contact changed through reunion? It’s lessened now because she’s had to set up healthy emotional boundaries to keep her life in Florida in balance.
  • Having conversations with her adoptive mother as adults vs mother/daughter has helped their relationship.
  • Adoptees are being more transparent in the social media age and this means we’re building more community and we’re headed in the right direction!

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