Two years ago I received my birth records, and found my birthmother within 4 weeks. The information under father said only his birthdate, and UNKNOWN. My heart sank when I read this because I honestly believed I would be finding ALL of the missing pieces. Did someone actually believe that this was ok to withhold this from me? Adoption....secrets, lies, fear, deception.
Within months of contacting my mother, we scheduled a reunion. It was everything made for a Hallmark movie. The video setting was ready to capture that first embrace, there were tears and love overflowing. There were new relationships and memories forming. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at once, but then I went straight to the point and asked about my father. Then there was awkwardness, quiet avoidance, and skirting around the subject. I took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in my throat deciding it was too risky to rock the boat. I don't want to lose everything I've worked so hard for. My mother has been found, she wants a relationship with me, and we will get to my father later. She just needs time.
On my last day of a week long reunion ( I know that's a loooonnnggg time for a first meeting) my mothers husband asked if we could have a private conversation. My mother quietly sat by while her husband told me " we understand if you want to find your father, but we do not wish to be a part of it, and we would hope that you do that in private". He added that when I really think about it, it's my mother I have probably thought of all of these years anyway. Whoa!?!?! Wait? What? I cried, and thanked him for his love and support of my mother, but inside I was deeply hurting. It was the only time during my reunion that I wanted to slip back to my hotel room, and sit alone in my feelings That of course did not happen, so I had to put on a happy mask and disguise my true feelings ( adoptees are pretty good at this).
What I wish I was brave enough to say was DO NOT tell me who I thought of or didn't think of. What if the shoe was on the other foot, and it was you who was kept away from your sons? Would it be ok then, because you're just the father? Did you never think of your father?
So I am a stubborn girl and I decided FINE, you don't want to help me, then I will do it all by myself. I am so used to going at it alone. I had his birthdate and my mothers sister in law had slipped the name Gary. She had told me that she wanted me to know my father loved my mother very much. She shared with me that my grandfather told lies about my father to keep him away. My father had wrote many letters to my mother and my grandfather threw them all away. She has no idea that he fought hard to talk with her father, to share his feelings and love. My grandfather had made his decision. His daughter would not be a part of Gary's life and either would I. I started searching online anyone with the name Gary, the same birthdate, and anyone who lived within a four state area. I wrote random Gary's letters saying.... I know this is crazy, but could you be my dad? No responses. I was like a crazy, stalking weirdo. I eventually decided to take my chances with a DNA test. I carefully calculated the perfect amount of saliva and prayed that the spit would lead me to my father. 7 weeks later, and much detective work on my part, I found Gary....my Gary...my father. I did it!
He received my letter, and in the same week it was sent I was talking with my father over the phone. I wish I could adequately share with you the love and excitement in his voice as he shared with me how happy he was to have been found. He said I was never a secret, and that he always thought of me telling friends and family somewhere out there I have a daughter. The best news was that his home was only 1 hour away from my adoptive family who had just moved to Florida. How perfect is that? I can visit my parents and meet my father, so I planned a trip.
My adoptive mother was very hurt when I found my mother that I did not include her in on every detail. We weren't exactly close, and I've always needed to protect myself from her hurtful words. My main concern was that I didn't want to hurt her. I decided to be more open and sharing with my adoptive parents while navigating meeting my father. We had great talks about my fears, and the feelings I always had growing up, but they could have never known about because I stayed quiet to guard their heart. They were loving, supportive, and I felt an extreme amount of guilt that I had not trusted them with my heart the first time around meeting my mother. My adoptive parents really wanted to meet Gary, but inside I was still cautious, and wondered could Gary and I truly be ourselves and have the conversations I wanted to have with my parents present? I was in full on good adoptee daughter mode wanting to not hurt them and please them so we all traveled to my birthfathers home together. I worried the whole car ride there if my mother would say something inappropriate, would she be judgmental or was I worrying for no reason? On the car ride there my mother passes me her phone to show me some photos that she had collected to share with Gary. Beautiful baby photos, sweet little pig tail photos throughout my childhood, and memories up into the present. There was one photo that I just looked horrible in....dreadful jr high years with big bangs and chubby cheeks. Embarrassed I said, "oh please don't show this one, its awful". We arrive and my mother video tapes every move we make, it's a relief to wrap my arms around him, but I know we both feel like we are under a microscope and this is not how I pictured this meeting happening. My mother whips out her phone, and she shares one photo, extending her arm and giggling. It wasn't that she shared the photo I asked her not to share. I would be totally vain, and if my father truly loves me he is going to love any photo of me, right? It was that she ONLY showed that one photo which felt like to spite me. No beautiful baby photos, no heartfelt thank you for giving us such a precious gift, just that one photo and I wanted to cry.
Gary calls me all of the time, just to talk about nothing or tell me a story. He wrote me a 10 page letter sharing about his life and he was so open and honest I felt like I've always known him. He isn't perfect, in fact he's a little rough around the edges, but that's what I love most about him. He trusts me with it all. Reunion is not for the faint of heart and I'm not certain I prepared myself to be cut open for all to see. There is beauty, heartache, raw emotions, and I'm leaning heavily on grace.
When my adoptive mother came to KC for a visit this fall she stated that her and my adoptive father have decided if Gary wants to be a part of my life, he would need to come visit me....not me always going to see him. I am a grown adult....and they have decided. Are you kidding me? Not to mention I've met him once. There's no track record of me only putting in the effort and not him. Not to mention this is none of their business. She then added..."he didn't look at your photos very well". She has so much fear, that she stirs the pot with a big ol' spoon of he doesn't really love you. I thought the love of a mother would come along side me and say look how he looks at you, of course he loves you, who wouldn't.
I hope Gary can feel my love and know within his heart that his daughter never gave up. He was that important and he is more than enough. We both are.
I'm so frustrated with the voices that say you must choose OR thinking. I could just pull every hair out of my head because its everywhere you go.
Gun lover or banish all guns from the face of the earth....take them all.
Immigrant or terrorist to be feared
Democrat or Republican
Conservative or Liberal
Left or Right
Saved by grace or only if we've earned it ( whatever hoop to jump through you want to label)
Kneel or don't kneel. Patriotic or guilty of Nationalism
You get my point. The world says you are one OR the other. We couldn't possibly believe that there should be sensible gun control and the rights to protect oneself. We must choose that the problem is mental illness OR a gun problem. How about we have a gun problem and we want those with mental illness to get the help they need AND in the mean time lets make it more difficult for someone to get their hands on a gun if they have mental illness.
Let's consider that it is possible to love America AND understand that God doesn't just bless America. When the Bible says " For God so loved the WORLD, that He gave his one and only son" I think the key words to take away are loved AND world.
I could really get fired up and going on about a lot of these scenarios but I'm going to move on to adoptionland. I'm going to point out the problems with OR thinking and how if we look a little closer, take down our defenses we can see things a little differently. We'll call this the ability to show up and break down the walls that say you can't be seen or heard.
1. You must choose be for OR against adoption.
Why can I not be able to see that in some cases adoption is for the best case of the child but there are also many times adoption occurs unethically or a permanent decision is made for a temporary problem.
2. Adopted OR destined for abortion.
Oh my goodness....how many times as an adoptee are we told this.....be thankful you were not aborted. Excuse me!?!? Abortion is not the alternative to adoption for many women. Parenting is.
3. I'm grown in a heart OR a tummy
I grew in both of my mothers hearts AND in one tummy. I'm not confused about how I was born and to whom loved me.
4. Grateful or ungrateful
Stop with this. I am grateful my mother gave me life. I am full of gratitude for the love and support of my adoptive family. Here comes the AND... and I am aware and sensitive to the trauma I experienced and continue to experience from being severed from my first family.
5. I'm a gift or a shameful burden
Well which is it? This one is so painful to dissect. The world told my mother that because she had a child out of wedlock she is a sinner, she's not enough, she's probably on drugs, a whore and embarrassment to the family. But oh how the tide changes when she decides to make an adoption plan. Hopeful adoptive parents sing her praises and point out her BRAVE LOVE. Adoption agencies tell her that her baby deserves more than she can give her. All of a sudden this subject of embarrassment is a beautiful gift. Sigh! Wasn't I always the gift? I do believe you when you call her brave...so much brave...but would you call her that if she chose to parent also?
6. God's plan or God sits with us in our pain
I do not believe that I was set apart by God to be destined to life without my first family. God weeps with myself and my family. We were not part of some divine plan that blesses one mother over another. Sometimes in life we feel the need to justify everything. Someone dies and people say God needed him more. No. Infertility happens and suddenly their is a calling from God to adopt. God placed adoption on their hearts. No. They say God knew I needed you. Listen, there are tragedies, there is heartache, AND God doesn't cause our ashes. God is the author of love and like a loving father he hurts when we hurt.
7. Joy or sorrow. Beauty or ashes
There are no rules for grief. Can we get this one straight? You can stop telling adoptees to "get over it". No, no,no! It's ok to smile, laugh, sing, dance, rejoice AND....AND its totally understandable to have sorrow, to lament, to have sadness. I write my own story and I dance my own dance.
" Maybe it's okay if it takes time to be okay. Maybe healing is a road that is paved with endless grace" Morgan Harper Nichols
Take your time and be gentle with yourself dear one. You can choose AND
This past week I said goodbye to my grandfather. I was able to be with him that morning as he took his final breaths. He shared how much he loves us and how proud of us he was. Oh the joy he must have to be with grandma once again. I can picture the look on his face and the sigh of relief to see his beautiful bride. I'm not certain what heaven is like, but I assume its like coming home, like the smell of an apple pie baking in the oven, like the warmest ray of light that you can feel from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet, like a blanket of love or the tightest hug that never lets go. I just know it's amazing and everything my grandfather deserves.
Life and death intertwined. On the day my grandfather passed away, my sister's first grandbaby was born, New life that says just when you thought you knew what love is, something little comes along to remind you just how big it really is. Kind of like finding my birth family these last couple of years. To be honest I hate giving any subtitles. They are family.....they a part of me and I a part of them. I'm a part of two families, and they a part of me and honestly speaking it can be beautiful, frightening, complex, astonishing , and confusing. It's not this or that. It's everything.
When my great grandmother passed away nineteen years ago, the family gathered to divvy up her belongings. I remember there were arguments over who deserved what, and hurt feelings over not getting what they felt they deserved. This was the side of my family that had made comments about myself not being "blood", wrote adopted under my name in the family tree, and excluded me from generational family photos. You might say I felt like the black sheep of the family. I just wanted my grandmothers love, not her things. I let them fight it out and only took what others didn't want. It's a strange feeling to feel like the outsider looking in to your own family. My grandmother had the best laugh....light, airy, and contagious. I know she loved me dearly, life is just complicated.
With my grandfather passing this week, and family going through his belongings those feeling come back. Take the leftovers....go to the back of the line. A few weeks ago one of my biological uncles added me to a family webpage. I'm of course a late joiner. The conversations going on for years and I'm just catching up. Some of these family members might not even know who the heck I am. Where do I belong? Here or there....or is it here AND there? I'm like a tree without roots and I'm desperate to feel grounded.
At my grandfathers funeral the priest talked about 90% of life, is just showing up. I spend much of my time being distraught over who doesn't show up. I think we all are guilty of this, but for us "lucky chosen" ones, it's extremely hard to not put all of our focus on who wasn't there for us. I also celebrated my 42nd birthday last week, and as I blew out the candles I've decided to make this year a year of noticing. Noticing when and where I need to show up. We make time for what is important to us. I want people in my life to feel important, cherished, and loved. I consider my writing and sharing of my story as showing up. For as long as I live there will be haters who tell me to be grateful, get over it, deal with it and get therapy. I'm so thankful for those who were vulnerable before me, and gave me permission to speak my truth. We are all so hardwired for belonging, that often the first thing we do is deny ourselves. I will notice when I need to be present for myself, and in doing so invite others to say #metoo.
"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with the perseverance the race marked out for us"
I'm envisioning my rootless tree with little unearthed sprouts that grow towards the light. I'm thankful for those who have shown up in my life. To the friends who check in just to say I'm thinking of you. To the people who love my children like they are a part of their own family. To the girlfriends who make time to go to dinner even when they've had a busy week. To the family who raised me, loved me, and held on tight when loving me wasn't easy. To the new family who opens their arms and is equally sad about the years lost and even though the memories are painful decide to keep showing up because we have a new story to write. To the husband who is learning to sit with me on this rollercoaster meant for one. To my children who know sometimes I'm crazy, but I'm crazy in love with them. To the strangers here who join the conversation and are willing to show up for each other. I am noticing. My Namaste tagline being the badass in me, sees the badass in you.
Perhaps I'm a lotus. The lotus has it's roots in mud, at the bottom of streams and ponds. but it grows to become the most beautiful flower despite it's origins. It's petal open up one by one, courageously surviving. No one telling it to hurry up through the mud, for they anticipate the beauty in the process.
My birthday is in four days, Two years ago, I had the exact same feelings leading up to my birthday every single year. Two years ago something changed.... but only a little, and its hard to explain. You see, two years ago I found my biological mother and things that were always the same became different, and yet things that were different remained the same. Let me back track a little.
Pre reunion this date brought an overwhelming sense of loss and a downright confusion that made me feel like I was manic. I was anxious about feeling celebrated, and also preparing myself for the letdown of being forgotten. I wanted a big hoorah, and yet I wanted to hide under the covers and have the world forget about me. I wanted to feel loved and adored, but also push people away. I wanted to dance, live large, laugh until it hurts, and also cry until it aches and let the world become quiet.
I thought of my mother all of the time, but this was the one day that I thought if she's thinking of me too, surely today's the day. I held space for my mother on my birthday. A sacred space that I let no one know about. There wasn't one person I shared my birthday issues with, like most of my adoption trauma. I became my own caregiver for the wounds I was certain no one would ever understand.
Fast forward, and my birthday is in four days. This year I know my mother and my father are thinking of me. I don't even have to guess because they can call me to wish me a Happy
Birthday. It's freaking amazing, right? And yet is it because I've conditioned myself all of these years to have issues with a stupid birthday? Am I self sabotaging? Will I ever pull my child self out and stop thinking of all that could have been and all that should have been?
My birthday is in four days. I'm going to blow out the candles, laugh until my belly hurts and I'm going to crawl into bed, pull the covers up high and have a good cry. I'm going to hold space for it all.
In adoption land we hear many stories of waiting. Stories of waiting for a positive pregnancy test, waiting for adoption placement, waiting to become a mother, waiting and holding their breath to see if a birthmother will change her mind, waiting for the judge to make it final.
Oh, I know about waiting. I know about desperate prayers, on my knees and dying to self during the waiting, You could say I've been waiting my whole life to find the pieces to my puzzle. I'd become familiar with the yearning to know why I was given away and if she had any regrets. I would stare into the mirror and pray that one day I would know my mother, and that in my reflection I would see how her eyes form the same shape when we smile, that our hairline met at the same places on our face, and the raised mole below the corner of my lip was from her.
I placed my information on Adoption Reunion forums as soon as I turned 18. For some reason I believed this would be the magical year that my birth records would be available to me. I thought by law my mother had to wait until I was 18 to find me, because SURELY she was desperate to find me. I know about checking those adoption reunion registries year after year after year, only to find that no one was looking for you in return.
Two years ago at the age of 40, I realized the state I was born in had opened up birth records for adoptees. All I had to do was fill out the proper paperwork, have it notarized, and drop it in the mail to wait. The paperwork said to allow 6-8 weeks for processing, but a week later an envelope from the state of Kansas appeared in my mailbox. It happened so fast, yet I had waited so long. I poured myself a glass of wine and called a friend to hold me together. Through tears we opened it and it said Baby Girl (mothers maiden name). Surreal to say the least and a title I didn't know could bring such strong emotions. The waiting continues however because I believed I would be receiving a full name of my mother and father. Nope.......just a maiden name, and zero information for my father.
I was in some luck that my mothers maiden name was an uncommon name, and the detective in me went straight to Facebook to search for my family. I didn't want to waste one more minute waiting to find them. In two days I narrowed down who I thought my mother was, found her address in the white pages and wrote her a letter. I wanted her to hear my heart in my words and feared that if I called I would frighten her away. I also couldn't face the thought of hearing her voice if it was a call of rejection.
This is where God lead me through the desert. This waiting was one of the darkest moments of my life, and I let my heart and mind lead me straight to the fear of being abandoned once again. I made myself dizzy and ill checking the mailbox, Facebook, and my email for a response. I lost weight, couldn't eat, began having chest pain believing I was having a heart attack all due to this overwhelming stress. During this time of waiting, when I couldn't turn off the voices that said she's never going to respond I prayed, I cried, I worshiped, I pleaded and yelled out to God. A particular song kept showing up on my Pandora just exactly when I needed it the most. Steffany Gretzinger's Letting Go. When my heart was heavy and felt like I might die, this song would come on and totally break me every.single.time.
You brought me to the end of myself
and this has been the longest road
just when I thought my hallelujah was tired
You gave me a new song
I am letting go and falling into you
I felt a wave of peace rush over me listening to these lyrics and felt God holding me and all of my broken pieces. I needed to let go of the anger, the fears of rejection, the story I had told myself of unloved, unwanted, and unworthy and fall into the arms of my Father who would never leave me despite the answers I may find or not find in my waiting.
I confess I still get scared sometimes
but perfect love comes rushing in
And all the lies that screamed inside go silent
The moment You begin
One morning during this exhausting test of patience, that song came on. Only this morning I had had it, I was done. I was broken and defeated like I have never felt before. That song came on again and instead of peace I felt mad. I screamed out loud to God.... I need a new song!!!
The next song that broadcasted through my Pandora that very minute was titled NEW SONG. Not only is God listening, but what a great sense of humor. That same day my waiting came to an end, and my mothers email popped up in my mailbox. She had received my letter and most certainly wanted to know me.
I know about the waiting. The heart ripped open and the air so thin and hard to breathe. I also know the wind on the other side of the mountain, like being brought home.
For an adoptee to "come out of the fog", one must come to a realization that they never honored their true inner feelings of being relinquished. When I was asked if I was interested in finding my family, I would answer no because I knew my role as an adopted daughter. My loyalty was to my adoptive family and I was grateful. Even at a young age I knew the backlash of being honest that I longed to know and be loved by them. After finding my family as an adult, and coming fully out of the fog, one of the heaviest scars is the story that my parents, adoptive parents, the church and society tells me of God's plan for my life.
I have read blog after bog...Instagram feeds that tell the glorious tale of God placing a calling on their hearts for adoption. They were called to adopt. Ok we'll get back to this. What I want to talk about is this spiritual warfare that has been going on in my heart as I read these stories. The past few months I haven't felt distant from God, but I have felt so let down and removed from religion. I hear these adoptive parents sharing the most intimate, sacred moments of their child's life. A loss that they can never fathom, and many of them so deaf to those screaming their tale of pain because in their mind God chose them. They quote Bible verses such as " For this Child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him." 1 Samuel 1:27-28 God is used like a magic wand. This is where my heart says if this is what your religion offers than I want nothing of it. Their " God's plan" story tells a tale of a God who cares nothing for mother and child. I know for a fact my mother also prayed for this child, but she had zero support. Her heartache hidden in the deepest shadows of her soul. God was there, but where does she fit into their adoption journey calling? Was there a divine calling to adopt or after infertility was that the next chronological step?
Yesterday I spoke with an adoptive mother who described to me life with a child with RAD ( Reactive attachment disorder). She spoke of the dreams and plans she had with her child, but these dreams seemed shattered when the child failed to attach and showed significant behavioral issues due to trauma. She was promoting an author, speaker, and adoptive parent who chose to rehome her child with RAD. This mother spoke to me with respect and patience as I challenged- and I mean asking the hard questions claws out, her thoughts on rehoming. I will leave this touchy subject for another day, but I couldn't help but think of the God's plan scenario. Like shopping for a new appliance, and when it didn't look the way you thought, didn't fit the space, was too noisy, it is returned. As if children can be comparable to ordering from the Sears catalog. I'm not for one minute dismissing the complexity or struggle of parenting a child with trauma, but was it not the relinquishment that caused the trauma in the first place? A second abandonment will not be for the child's best interest and health. Am I crazy for thinking not? And did God call you to rehoming? Was this all apart of the journey and God's plan?
It can be so maddening and isolating trying to share my heart and when I feel depleted I tend to forget that yes, religion has failed me, but all I have ever needed God's hand has provided. God has never abandoned me and continues to show up over and over again. It's often in the times I feel the most alone, that God shows me we are given to one another. This spiritual darkness has opened my eyes that there are voices upon voice who echo mine. I was never alone. God carves space in my heart for those who seem like we are on opposite sides of the white flag yelling " I surrender, I surrender." Have you ever felt so emotionally drained that if someone even looked at you the wrong way, you might crack? I had been lying in bed, tears streaming down my face and I told my husband sometimes I just want to check out. I wasn't telling him I wanted to kill myself, that's not what I meant, but I just wanted to not be present to all of these adoption feelings. I wanted to never see the look on his face when I start talking about adoption again. I wanted to quiet the voices that try to tell me my worth, and I thought if I was checked out I wouldn't want to throat punch the next person who said " We are all adopted by God" like that makes us all the same. A few days later I went to the words of Pastor Nadia Bolz Weber. I listen to her sermons through podcast when I need to be reassured of God's love. She says "Gods voice is the warm voice of a mother to her newborn." She reminds me that God sits with me in my darkest hour and that we are never alone.
you can listen here. I have many favorites but just listened to Wounds and Wells; a Sermon on the Samaritan Woman
If you keep me, I promise to be a good girl. We only need love, not material things They're just things after all and nothing could replace you. I just need you. Imagine all of our years together celebrating milestones, birthdays, tucking me in at night, all of the beautiful things shared between a mother and daughter. I swear I'll be a good girl and you'll never regret keeping me.
How does one feel, when the one person who is supposed to love and protect you the most leaves? Unloved, unwanted, and unworthy....these feelings would pierce right through me. They wove their way into every relationship I would ever have. I worried my parents could leave me also, so I assumed the role as the good girl. Don't rock the boat, don't disrupt others with your feelings and emotions, stay small and quiet. As a child I strived to be the teachers pet. I raised my hand first, had the most stars on the chart, and if someone inched before me I became ill, sick to my stomach, and wanting to go home. I fabricated my story to my classmates, making them believe I was the real life version of Annie. Like Annie, I believed my parents were out there somewhere, heartbroken, and searching for me. As a teenage girl, I looked for love in all the wrong places. I assumed if I gave myself away, in return I would be loved, wanted, and they wouldn't leave me. I numbed myself, felt the weight of shame and disgust, and felt more empty than I had ever felt before. I learned that love was far from unconditional, but a hustle I would have to learn and strive for my entire life. As God often does, He helped me see the beauty in my struggle. He helped me smooth out the rough edges and to use them to show me my worth. Loving, loyal, transparent, forgiving, sensitive to the brokenness around me, He made me aware to seeing the radiant, bright light that shines in others. That everyone carries a story, and collectively we all desire to be seen and known.
Two years before I reunited with my birth family, my adoptive parents made the decision to sell their home that was ten minutes from mine, and move to Florida. They lived ten minutes from me, but rarely spent time with my children or myself. Not much would change relationship wise if they moved, and yet I had a sadness and anger for the expectations I had as their daughter, and the grandparents of my children. Through tears over the phone I gathered the courage and bravery to share my heart, my sadness, and that I was probably experiencing some abandonment issues. I use the word brave, because we NEVER talked about adoption or my feelings. My mother assured me that she loves us, told me many families live miles apart, and that they deserve to be happy.
One week later, while visiting my elderly grandparents my mother said to me " hmm...haven't seen you here in a while, I bet they ( my grandparents) have abandonment issues." All said in the most snarky tone of voice with head tilted. I had forgiven my mother many times for her sharp tongue- but this time I thought how can I ever forgive her? I had shared courageously with her my deepest wound, and she in return used it to hurt me and say I wasn't a good granddaughter. Not to mention, I WAS the granddaughter who visited, packed up meals for them, and helped when needed. Not out of duty, but because I loved them. I had four kids ranging from preschool to high school at the time, so my hands were full, my schedule stretched, but never too much that I didn't make time for my loved ones.. Not only was this statement hands down the most hurtful thing anyone has ever said to me, it was unfair and untrue. Abandonment issues wasn't an insult to her or a reflection of her parenting. It meant that people who are supposed to love me the most left, and I'm scared of everyone else in my life doing the same. To this day my mother claims " not remembering" the conversation. An amnesia of sorts.
Some days I fear I will never shake the feelings of not being good enough. I easily feel like the outsider looking in. I hold my breath waiting for people to leave. They will discover I'm too clingy, too boring, too broken, just all together TOO MUCH. I will continue to practice self love, and see myself as love and being loved. I will allow myself grace for striving and become more familiar with whom God says I am. He calls me daughter, He calls me redeemed, and He calls me worthy- not because of anything I've done or haven't done to prove my worth. Because HE IS, I AM loved, chosen, worthy, and transformed.
Someone should have told you that adoption would define you for the rest of your life. Your parents thought they brought home a three day old blank slate, baby girl. They thought that if they never talked about adoption, you wouldn't feel adopted. They wouldn't understand that even as an infant, my body and my heart were mourning. When I cried so hard and then held my breath it might of been a message you were trying to send. We knew her voice, her smell, knew our home in her womb....and then she was gone. Vanished without explanation.
Somewhere along the line you were given the message that your role as an adoptee was to deny your feelings to protect your loved ones. Someone should have given you the greenlight to share your heart, share your pain, and share your questions. Someone should have said we may not have all the answers, and we may not do this perfectly, but we are willing to stumble for our love for you is greater than our need to be perfect.
Someone should have reminded you more often how loved and wanted you were. If we could make them understand that the adoption language such as chosen and gift, always has an opposite meaning. That if we are chosen and a gift by our adoptive parents, what does that make us to our first family? Someone should have told you simply I love you over, and over again, because we need to be reminded.
Someone should have told you God did not plan this for you. No more than did God plan infertility. Someone should have shared God's love for you like a Father loves his children. He doesn't want to see us hurting- that's not His will. God is for you, He is with you and He adores you.
Someone should have told you it wasn't your fault. You did nothing wrong by being born. You are not a burden, a bastard, a bad choice, a second thought, an inconvenience. Someone should have told you the weight of all of those words was never meant for you to carry. Someone should have reminded you over and over again of your worth, your value, and the mark you have left and will leave in the lives of others.
Someone should have told you that your pain and trauma wasn't just you. You weren't making it up. You see society is going to tell you " no, no, no" " your pain is not real" " you just had a bad experience because most adoptees are happy and grateful," Someone should have allowed you to fully grieve, feel ALL of your feelings without trying to justify or fix it. Sometimes we just need a witness.
Someone should have told you that when you grow older you are going to discover motherhood and it will be the first time in your entire life to stare into a face that mirrors yours. Your heart will know unconditional love like you have never experienced before. You will make it your life's mission to tell them they are loved as they are, not as they should be......because none of us are ever going to be as we should be. We are all beautifully broken. The beautiful jagged edges just as lovely and purposeful. Someone should tell you that you will use your story and your deepest pain not only to heal yourself but to others who know what this journey feels like. You will find out you were never alone. Someone should remind you when you are older, and you grow weary, when your voice seems shaky and unheard, that it's you that I keep trotting on for. Head held high, one foot in front of the other, we march on for the little girls like you.
Your grownup self
From the very beginning my story is one born out of shame and when I'm unable to sift through the should ofs, could ofs and rational thoughts I let the shame become me. I am shame. I am the thing that was so terrifying and heartbreaking to a family that my mother was sent 1,500 miles away from her family home to live with her oldest brother while she carried and labored a baby without being seen and known. I was the thing that was never mentioned again when she returned home by her parents. Out of sight, out of mind? I kind of think it doesn't work that way.
Brene Brown, researcher on shame and vulnerability says shame is the fear of being unlovable. It is the opposite of owning our story and being worthy. She goes on to say:
The truth about shame is
1. We all have it
2. We are all afraid to talk about it
3. The less we talk about it, the more power it has
So let's talk about shame in adoption!
1 Secrecy. We need to know our truths and this includes our stories of where we came from, our medical history, any information you have. Fight with us for open adoption records because you love us and you believe this is a basic human right. Remember that there is no fear in love, so holding onto information out of fear of losing us is not love....it's ownership.
2. Listen. The biggest outcry I hear from my brothers and sisters fellow adoptees is that we don't feel heard. We hear " oh I'm sorry you had a bad experience" " the people I know were happy to be adopted" "you are lucky" " just be thankful you weren't aborted." It's mind boggling how someone who has never been in my shoes would tell me how I should feel.
3.The Church. Personally I have found myself really struggling with the message I was told my entire life. My mother always said it was God's plan and something about that made me a little upset with God. What if God's plan was for my biological family to not place shame so heavy on an emotional and distressed mother. What if it were God's plan for the family, and church to rally beside her and say we will care for this child.
Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
I have never adopted a child, so I won't even begin to be an expert here. I can only guess and use empathy that you too know shame in adoption. Please join in on the conversation because I'm certain you will do a better job at representing
1. Expectations: Will it be an instant attachment on both ends? Will my baby bond with me? Will I feel the same for my baby as I would a biological child? Will I be enough to meet my child's needs?
2. Ethical or unethical, adoptive parent or baby stealer? Just stroll the internet and you will find all extremes of adoption stories and beliefs of what is defined as acceptable and just plain evil in the adoption industry. The truth is you probably didn't steal a baby. You probably hurt deeply for the mother who gave you her heart, gave you her child. We know your heart, and intentions are good and of love- and that yes those evil things DO in fact happen, but it's not every adoptive parents story. That's why we have to advocate together.
3. So where are her real parents? Ever heard that one? Ever let the weight of that carry heavy on your heart? Listen! My parents were as real as they could get. They were there when I cried in the night, they kissed my boo boos, tucked me in at night, oh lord they put up with me during my hard, hard teenage years. Never forget your worth. Biology AND love make a family.
Once again I can only guess and piece together the bits of the story from my own birthmother, but we know you are touched by shame also.
1. Relinquishment. I can imagine that the decision to place is one that never leaves your mind. Whether you felt like you had zero options, no support, or felt at peace that it was the best choice for you and your child I'm sure the shame can feel lonely and defeating.
2. Labels: What kind of girl gets herself into this situation? Are all birthmothers drug users who would consider abortion had someone not rescued them? Please!!!!
3. Isolation: Many birthmothers like I mentioned above not only were shipped off to have a baby in secrecy, but they returned to never speak of the baby again. As I began reunion with my birthmother, and started building a relationship, I realized she had stuffed so many feelings and emotions that her wall was so high. The skeletons in her closet were suffocating her and she's having a hard time releasing their grip. What if the shame wasn't present and she was allowed to grieve?
I'm certain we can add to the lists here, as shame is interlaced between the triad of adoption. As Brene said above, the less we talk about it, the more power it has......and I am through giving power to the role shame has played in my adoption story.
Peace out shame. I'm writing a new story
This week I received an email from an adoptive parent asking for my adoptee perspective. I was honored and touched that this woman had reached out to me. I was a stranger after all, and it meant a lot that she valued my opinion as I know the heart of an adoptee. Many of our stories vary, our backgrounds as wide as the sun is from the moon, but many of our feelings are universal. We carry an imaginary members only card stamped ADOPTEE. Some of us let that label define us more than others, but never the less we were given this definition. Many of us are now speaking out much like the #metoo movement, because one was brave, we are finding our courage also.
She told me about her experience with infertility and that her husband and herself were traveling down the path of diving into adoption. She said she started to follow several adoptive mommy bloggers on Instagram and she noticed so many of these mothers were placing a large emphasis on worry that their child will experience pain, loss, and trauma. She went on to let me know that both her mother and her father in law were adopted and they never experienced anything but joy and happiness to be adopted. She said she understood that there might be some that had a bad experience, but that most do not struggle. She said she is confused why adoptees advocate " their position" and feel the need to share their story. She is also confused to why these adoptive moms assuming these feelings their children might never have. She had a lot more to say about how she skimmed through parts of The Primal Wound and didn't really agree with it.
I wrote back with my opinion and understanding of adoption and trauma. I gave her statistics and research and I spoke from the heart about my own experiences. As I was writing her I couldn't stop thinking about FEAR. What is she afraid of by facing the truth of pain? Why are we so afraid of pain? I told her a story I had heard of a mother trying to shield her child from pain and heartache. What are qualities we would like to see in our children? I'd like my children to be loving and kind. I'd like them to be wise. I want them to be resilient. If everything were easy they might not know how to be so caring. What if the one thing we are trying to help them avoid is the thing that will help them become the people we are praying they become. Maybe my job as a mom isn't to bubble wrap my kid, but to help guide them through the pain. Yes, I wish abandonment wasn't my story, but if it weren't my story I probably wouldn't be the loyal, loving, friend who is instinctively aware of others feelings. My adoption story has hurt like hell at times, but it has also been where I have connected in the most beautiful ways with others who can say the pain in me sees the pain in you and we are beautiful and better together. I think God our Father does this also. He doesn't shield us from the pain, but He uses it to mold us, shape us and help us grow.