There was a time when I could not speak the word “adoption” aloud. It was so charged with pain, the very thought of it overwhelmed me. Thorns of bitterness accompanied the word forming a thick barrier.
Adoption represented trauma and deep, unresolved grief.
As a young teen at the very end of the 1970’s, I became pregnant. My parents turned to their church for advice which led to me being sent to live in a foster home far from everyone I knew and loved.
Home, it’s been a weighted word for me all of my life. Perhaps, other adoptees will understand what I mean by this. As a person of international adoption, I have struggled with where home is for me.
I’ve tossed and turned with thoughts of what and how much I am allowed to feel for the land I was born into and the land I was adopted into.
If you honor one side are you dishonoring the other? This is a very real question for the adoptee: the internal conflict between birth heritage and adopted heritage.
Often times, it was easier for me not to face this question. As an adolescent—a time filled with the longings of identity and belonging—I’d turn off my emotions and silence the chatter of those telling me who and what I was.
I’m not an adoption professional. What I am is an expert on how it feels to be adopted. I’m an international adoptee. I hold a wealth of knowledge and understanding about living in the skin of adoption.
I was born in England. Not in London, but in a smaller place known as Bury St Edmunds. Bury St Edmunds is a town in West Suffolk on the River Lark.
It is of an ancient ruin and is said to have been the site of a Roman villa and later a royal Saxon town. Bury St Edmunds is named for Saint Edmund—king of the East Angles—killed by the Danes around 870, and is buried there.
I tell you this not because I’m a historian, but because I hold a deep sense of pride in where I am from and from where I was adopted.
“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” ~Oprah Winfrey
We live on a planet plagued by crisis. War, hunger, disease, exploitation, racism, gun violence—these are just a few of the headlines presented, daily, on news outlets worldwide.
It’s seldom when we hear on our televisions, or read on our news tablets, of the crisis that I advocate on behalf of: the orphan crisis. This crisis has placed its grip on an estimated 17.8 million children around the globe: orphaned and vulnerable children in need of our care and attention. And, where there are orphaned and vulnerable children—there are also vulnerable and marginalized mothers.
There are times when I find it challenging not to be hard on myself. Just last week, for instance, we took a family Spring Break trip. We traveled through Joshua Tree and Zion National Park.
In Zion, we set out on an afternoon canyoneering and rappelling excursion. Now, I have rappelled in my life—this wasn’t my first rodeo. In fact, there was a time when I rappelled deep into caves and down steep cliffs, like a pro. So, I felt very secure in my ability to scale the giant rocks of Zion. I also was pretty psyched about showing my kids my rappelling ability.
On this episode of The Greater Than Podcast, I speak with Rachel Garlinghouse, author of the book, The Hopeful Mom’s Guide to Adoption: The Wit and Wisdom You Need for the Journey. Rachel has been part of the adoption community for a decade and is mothering four children, all of whom were adopted domestically and transracially. Rachel has shared her education and experiences on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NPR, and Huff Post Live, just to name a few.
In this episode, Rachel and I discuss transracial adoption and, my brave friend speaks openly about her journey as a diabetic and breast cancer survivor. In addition, we talk about the ways in which we can navigate the losses in our lives. There is such hope in Rachel’s message: such inspiration found in living a life of healing verses in living to be healed.
Perfect people. Perfect Children. Perfect Parents. Perfect homes. Perfect lives. Perfect families. The images are everywhere in the media today.
I’m standing at my local grocery store checkout counter and staring at magazine covers with the images of perfect humans, perfect outfits, perfect bodies for those outfits, perfect places to travel, and perfect cars to get you there.
I, on the other hand, have my hair up in a mommy bun and my glasses are a little crooked on my nose. As I look down in an attempt to straighten my eyewear, I see clearly that I — in my hurried attempt to get my kids to school on time — left the house with my furry slippers still on my feet. I’m not perfect.
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.
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.