I entered the world as a “matter” for the country of England to settle. In simpler terms, I was the product of an affair. A “predicament” as government records indicated:
“The birthfather has paid no maintenance for the child and has taken no interest whatever, either in the mother’s predicament, or the baby’s future.”
After my birth, arrangements were made to have me placed in a foster home. Several months later, my mother read these words printed on a brown piece of paper: In The Matter Of Julie. She signed the document, stating that she could not raise me. Some say it is impossible for a child to sense this moment. I disagree. My spirit felt each letter as my mother pressed down on the signature line, spelling out her name, and severing the cord between us.
I received a beautiful piece of scripture on Christmas Eve, 2017. The words were written on a white piece of paper that had been folded into a star. The star was hanging on one of several sparkling Christmas trees that dotted the space where my church was holding its last worship service for the evening.
My pastor for the past five years, Jon Ireland, spoke to those of us in attendance about how true peace is from God: a gift that the world cannot offer. Then, he invited each member of the congregation to go to a Christmas tree in the room and choose one paper ornament. We were to wait to open our chosen ornaments until everyone was back in their seats.
I am an explorer. As an adoptee, I have explored the depths of my soul to find a meaning to the earliest parts of my history. I have ventured out, and within, to seek unknown parts of myself. I have tracked many a mile to uncover my identity and to dismantle the titles given to me by others. Titles that did not serve me in a positive life outcome.
I believe that all adoptees are explorers. In some way, we are all searching, seeking, and looking for answers to who we are and why we’re here. We’re trackers of truth. At some moment in our lives, a severing took place that catapulted us into a situation we had no control over. Free falling — or so it seemed — we landed into lives that we were not born of, but were destined for.
Michelle: Was adoption something that was always on your heart, Rachel? Or was there a moment, or experience that you recall that awakened you to this form of family building?
Rachel: I’ve always worked with kids and loved kids. I worked as a nanny, at a day care… I was a writing camp counselor. I babysat friend’s kids, always for fun, never for pay. I just love being around children, so I think I always knew we were going to have children, but I didn’t do a lot of planning on how that was going to happen, just because I was finishing my college degree, and then we got married. I got married when I was twenty one. About four or five years into our marriage, we started thinking about having kids. At that point, the big thing happened. I had been sick for about a year and a half and I went to five different medical professionals and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. I was misdiagnosed with anorexia, and being a hypochondriac, and I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease when I entered into a state called, diabetic ketoacidosis. My body was shutting down. Multiple doctors came into my room and said, “I don’t know how you are alive, this is a miracle.” And I knew in that moment—because I knew that Type 1 could make a pregnancy potentially dangerous—that we would choose adoption. Now, my husband wasn’t on board yet, but I was like, “This is what we are doing.” Adoption is a really difficult decision for a lot of people, it was not for me. I just knew.
I write this post during a time of great loss and devastation in my community of Santa Barbara and Montecito. A catastrophic mud slide, caused by a powerful storm, has destroyed lives and property.
Hundreds of rescue workers continue to search — round the clock — for the missing. Seventeen people are confirmed dead and this number is expected to rise.
A community that just came through the largest fire in California’s recorded history has now been hit with yet another natural disaster. The Thomas Fire planted the dangerous seed: buckets of rain poured down, early Tuesday morning, on freshly scorched terrain … triggering the massive mudslide.
As children, we are often taught the importance of saying ‘thank you’ when someone is friendly, kind, generous, or thoughtful. It was the very act of extending a note of thanks that changed my life and the lives of many others.
My childhood was full of hardships. At six months old, I was placed in foster care for the first time, because my mother had abandoned me for two weeks. I would eventually be returned to her care, but this was only the beginning. I spent the next eleven years bouncing around between an unstable and abusive home, along with a string of foster homes. At the age of eleven, I was permanently placed in foster care when my mother went to jail for drug and sexual abuse charges. I spent the next five years in a downward cycle, moving from foster home to another, experiencing severe behavioral problems, and struggling academically.
Light the sparklers and slip into your sequins, we’re getting ready to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome in a new year. As I look back on this year, I can truly say that I’m grateful for each and every moment. No matter the challenge or the triumph, I’m learning and growing into the person that I was created to be.
I’ve learned a lot this year about the importance of community. We were created, each of us, for relationship. We humans cannot thrive alone, in isolation, on our own. In other words, we need each other.
All the soarings of my mind begin in my blood. ~Rainer Maria Rilke
A Love Unfeigned
Evening falls on the glow of late afternoon. The wind outside the nursing home winnows through the trees, reflecting the current of memory, sifting remembrance from forgetfulness. I sit in a chair next to my mother, who turned 94 last December. She doesn’t know me—or anyone—now.
I’m the son of adoptive parents. My mother and father took a chance on me and it paid off. At least, I like to think it did. And I hope they felt, as two survivors of the Great Depression and Second World War era, a quiet sense of pride in knowing that it was due to their risk and devotion that my life worked out so well.
The past eleven days have been uncertain ones. There is a 240,000 acre California fire that has burned from Ventura County and into Santa Barbara County. Some 8,000 firefighters are battling this blaze and working 24-hour shifts to keep the flames away from homes.
N95 masks have become the new accessory for Santa Barbara residents, like me, due to the unhealthy air from this monster fire. There are days when ash falls like snow.
As I write these words, the Thomas Fire is roughly 30% contained and more dry Santa Ana and sundowner winds are in the forecast. These are uncertain times, indeed.
There she stood about six steps off of the road at the end of a driveway. She was standing there waiting to meet me.
Is this really happening? Because if it is, it is more than wild.
All of my life I knew of this woman, Mary. Mary, my adoptive mother’s second cousin and my birth mother, only lived cities away—physically. In my mind, she may as well have lived across several oceans. If I had had my introverted way, I would’ve been invisible until the time I had taken in every detail about her into my memory. Before I could work it all out in my mind or hold onto one detail, I was in Mary’s embrace. Right there on the side of the street where the grass met the gravel was our meeting place. She had long hair rolled up in a bun but the rest of the details of those first few minutes are hard for me to recall.