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Growing Up Adopted

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be adopted?

Over 2,000 international children are adopted every year in Canada. The main country in which Canadian parents adopt from is China, which accounts for over 30 per cent of all international adoptions.


Every year, hundreds of Chinese toddlers and children come to Canada to start their new life.

But what is life really like for these kids? Growing up and trying to become who you are meant to be is hard enough as it is knowing exactly where you came from. For children that are adopted, this struggle can sometimes become heightened.

Elyse Reynolds was born in Wuhu, China in September of 1998.

“I was found a day after I was born, they could tell because of my umbilical cord. I was put onthe staircase of a business building so the people that left me knew that I would be found,”Reynolds’ says, reflecting on what she knows about her earliest days of her life.


"That was early in the morning and it was right across from the police department. So when someone found me, they brought me to the police department and then I was brought to the orphanage,” she says.


When she was brought to the orphanage in Wuhu, she met her nanny that would care for her for over a year, as well as other baby girls who would end up being becoming life long friends of hers.


Introduced in 1979, was the one-child policy in China was implemented in an attempt to control the growing population in China. This policy was strictly enforced and the government imposed fines for violations. Although there were some exceptions to the policy, many babies, especially girls, were abandoned and put up for adoption between 1979 and 2015 when the policy began to be formally phased out.


“I don’t know the reason I was adopted, whether it was the one-child policy or something else,”Reynolds’ says.


Reynolds does not know anything about her birth parents or what life she would have lead if she was never adopted.


“I wasn’t left with any information or a card or anything and the reason I think there is no information about a lot of peoples’ birth parents is because they didn’t want any trace,” she says.


“I feel like I’d be very different,” Reynolds, says when asked what kind of life she would have had if she wasn’t adopted.


“It’s always the nature versus nurture argument. What is biologically me and what is actually from how I was brought up? I’ve always considered myself pretty outgoing but then I wonder if that’s because of the life I’ve had growing up or something else.”


Some children that are adopted struggle with these kinds of identity questions. For Reynolds, she keeps a positive mind attitude and tries not to lose sleep over questions she might never get answers to.


“I’m meant to be here and it doesn’t bother me,” she says.


On November Nov. 14, 1999, Reynolds was adopted by her parents Graeme and Carol Reynolds.


“I was in the elevator with my nanny,” Reynolds says about the day she met her mother.


“My mom was in the same elevator and she was like, ‘That’s my kid!’, and the nanny was kind of worried and was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know, we’re going to have to check some papers’ but my mom knew it was me,” she says.


After spending a few weeks in China getting to know her child, Carol Reynolds was able to take her daughter home to Canada.


Carol came to China with about 10 other parents that were also adopting girls from China. Before they came, they acted as a support system for each other when getting prepared for the arrival of their children. About half of the girls were at the same orphanage as Reynolds.


After coming to Canada, the parents wanted the girls to keep in touch to and stay connected with people they were with in the early weeks of their lives. From that day on, a sisterhood formed between these girls.


“Having my adoption group in my life has provided me with so much love and gratitude,” says Reynolds.


The girls, although they live in different parts of Ontario, try to get together a few times a year to catch up on what is happening in each others lives.


Reynolds says that, “Being able to stay connected with these girls means that I always have someone there who I know will understand where I’m coming from. That bond over adoption is what makes our relationship as a group so important.”


This group allows these girls to have a support system in their unique situation and to know that they are not alone in how they feel and what they think. They can be there for each other about everything that is happening in their lives as they grow up, as well as the thing that brought them all together: adoption.


“Some of the other girls are a lot quieter about adoption, or won’t tell people or are just more shy about it. They think, ‘It’s a part of me that’s missing’ or ‘I feel like my birth parents didn’t want me’, which probably isn’t true and they loved them, but had to give them up for some reason,” Reynolds says about her friends.


“It’s interesting to see the different perspectives, but at the same time, it’s nice just to have someone who relates to you,” she says.


“It’s always the nature versus nurture argument. What is biologically me and what is actually from how I was brought up? I’ve always considered myself pretty outgoing but then I wonder if that’s because of the life I’ve had growing up or something else.”

- Elyse Reynolds

WUHU, China - Elyse Reynolds (far left) is photographed with six other girls in an orphanage in China. All seven children were adopted by their parents from Canada. The girls are now around 18-years-old and still stay in touch to this day.

With the struggles of growing up, having someone you can talk to and that will understand you is very important. Reynolds’ adoption group serves that purpose.


They’re also able to joke around with one another and make light of their experiences.


“We always end up talking like, ‘Don’t you hate when you’re in a grocery store and you’re with your parents and the person looks at you and automatically assumes that you’re not with your parents because they don’t look like you,’’,” Reynolds says, with a laugh.


Reynolds is grateful that she has kept in touch with the girls she was adopted with because she can relate to them in more ways than one.



When she went back to visit China in 2007, the owner of the orphanage and the nanny that cared for her still remembered her.

“They told me they called me chubby pig,” Reynolds says, smiling.


“Apparently they remember all the kids that come back.”


Reynolds may not ever know what her birth parents were like or why she was given up for adoption, but she doesn’t let that affect her life.


Although she may have a different background than some of the people she encounters, Reynolds has lived and continues to live a happy and healthy life that every child should be afforded in Canada and all around the world.

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