The yen for authenticity is a universal quest. To paraphrase Meister Eckhardt Tolle, “We long to know who we REALLY are.” This knowledge comes from within but also from our environment and the people immediately around us, our families.
Families: a loaded word.
It’s been said that the road to adoption recovery is a search for authenticity. Adoptees must choose from two family trees, one biological and another through adoption. In writing my memoir, The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption, I realized that neither family tree was the answer. My feeling of being “at home in the world” had to come from a source within, a gradual unveiling, a stripping away of masks I’d assumed for a lifetime.
I once believed that adoption was my weakness. I no longer think this true. Adoption has become my strength.
There was a time in my life when I thought of myself as fragile. I had been internationally adopted out of foster care, as a child. I viewed myself as broken. After all, I questioned, what parent would leave behind a child that was whole? There must be a kind of brokenness about me. I was convinced that the shattered pieces of me were the driving force behind my parents’ decision to walk away. I had done something wrong. I must have committed some sin that mom and dad could not forgive.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month: an initiative of the Children’s Bureau with a goal to increase national awareness and bring attention to the need for permanent families for children and youth in the U.S. foster care system.
On any given day, there are over 400,000 children in U.S. foster care. Over 100,000 foster children are eligible for and awaiting to be adopted. The average age of a waiting child is 7.7 years old and 29% of them will spend at least three years in foster care.
One. The number of medical issues we had that led us to considering adoption.
Ten. That’s the number of years my husband and I have been in the adoption community.
Twenty. The number of times our profile book was shown to expectant parents.
Four. The number of children we have adopted. Also the number of open and transracial adoptions.
One-thousand. The number of times I’ve mulled over our adoption journeys. Perhaps more… Definitely more.
This kid, my son. He’s always had a “bigger than life” way about him. From the very day when we left the orphanage in Russia, I knew that my Vitya was made for incredible things.
Vitya’s caretakers told me how he was known as the “pacifier thief” within the orphanage baby room where he spent the first year of his life. He’d pluck the pacifiers out of the mouths of other babies and stuff them into his own. It was common to see my boy, on any given day, contently sucking on three pacifiers at one time. He’s always been a bold boy. And, we’ve always had a special bond.
To my daughter on the day of your adoption,
I’ve called you by that label, “daughter,” many times. But today is different.
Today there’s no prefix, no subtext, no “sort of but not really” as there have always been before. You’re not my foster daughter, I don’t love you “like you’re my own.” Today you are wholly, completely, for forever my daughter. Nothing is changing, but everything is changing.
Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. ~Charles R. Swindoll
It’s true. Charles Swindoll hits the nail right on the head. His quote, put in another way, might read: when life gives you lemons make lemonade.
I translate the Swindoll quote like this: Every hurt is healable. I mean it! Every single hurt can be healed. Every single negative emotion can be reversed, every single challenge or disappointment can be used for greater purpose. The key is in our reaction to what life brings our way and the time we spend focused on it.
On my own blog, I spend a lot of time reflecting on how adoption and motherhood has changed me and my life path. I began the adoption process nearly 5 years ago, and I remember thinking about how to make space in my life for someone else. At the time, I was nearly 40, entering the final year of a doctoral program, having just survived a dramatic health scare. The confluence of these things pushed me to jump headlong into the adoption process. It was just a little crazy.
I love my life and every single lesson that I’ve learned along the way. I’m grateful. Yet, as an international adoptee, I cannot say that I haven’t experienced moments when I’ve mourned the very fact that I’m adopted. Truth is, sometimes adoption hurts deep. No matter the life chapter an adoptee may be in, the hurt is real. It’s important to express that hurt, to let it out.
This can be difficult when so much about adoption is wrapped in joyful ribbons and bows. I understand this joy, as I honor the beauty of adoption each and every day. In so many ways, adoption has been a great blessing in my life. Yet, as an adoptee and adoptive parent I would be remiss if I dismissed the voices within my adoption community that express feelings of being left, abandoned, erased. I would be remiss if I dismissed the voice within myself, as well.
I was back at school for about a month when I got a phone call. It was my birth mother. Her mother lost her battle with breast cancer. I immediately felt a sting of regret because I never had the opportunity to meet her. I met my immediate birth family just one month before, but somehow I was too late to meet my maternal grandmother. My birth mom asked if I’d come down for her funeral. “Of course,” I told her. I didn’t want to miss another chance to learn something about her family.