On the last weekend of September, life as I was planning it was interrupted. The rush of the prior week was muted. I drove five hours north of my home in Santa Barbara. I stopped. I breathed. I raised my gaze as I looked up to the blue skies and majestic Redwoods.
I was rerouted from my initial plans for the weekend. I opened my heart to hear the testimonies of women ignited by the Word of God. This was not an easy trip to make, I’ll admit. I was reluctant to go.
There is no experience or condition more isolating to the human spirit than a soul denied of its truth.
I don’t think there is anything more lonely and confusing than not knowing who you are; not knowing where you’re from.
As a young adoptee, I would stare into the mirror and every time I did, I came face-to-face with a stranger. I knew that I was supposed to be familiar with this girl I saw. Yet, she was foreign to me. I didn’t know her.
I didn’t really know her story or the stories of who had come before her. I felt as if I was a girl all alone in the world. A tribe of one. No true understanding of a biological identity or a DNA history. Many around me said that it—the biology of who I was—really wasn’t important, anyway.
Difficult to place…
These three words identified me, within my foster records, as a baby girl who would be hard to place due to my ambiguous ethnicity and questionable beginnings. My social worker, in England, listed the names of the potential adoptive parents who had looked me over with a “negative reaction.” There didn’t seem to be any surprise that I had been met with this kind of response. My earliest history had marked me as an unwanted child.
I was the product of an affair. Neither my birth mother nor my birth father wanted to raise me. I was secreted away into foster care and marked, labeled, and tagged as lesser than other babies born into loving homes with parents who adored and embraced them.
“The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food.” ~Dean Ornish
It has taken me years to understand the relevance of this quote. As a young adoptee, I could not fully comprehend the fundamental meaning of connection and community.
More than not, I would hide from these primal needs. I didn’t feel worthy of engaging with others. I was shy to connect and open myself up in an authentic way. Community scared me. The thought of being in community paralyzed me emotionally.
While sitting in the car, about to drive my daughter to her first day of third grade, I looked back at her in full amazement. How on earth did we get here so quickly?
Wasn’t it just yesterday when I was praying for her? Wasn’t it just yesterday when I paced the floor and awaited word on when I could fly to Ethiopia and finalize her adoption? Wasn’t it just yesterday when I held her in my arms for the very first time?
Now, she’s eight years old—almost nine—and growing into the most elegant and lovely young lady I have ever had the honor to know. Being the woman she calls Mom is a treasured blessing. And, it’s within these moments of grateful reflection when I think of other parents who are currently waiting on an adoption and wondering when they will be with their child.
I remember the day when I stood in the home of my birth mother and held her. We were in England and she had pulled me into her bedroom to “speak privately.”
Mum looked me in the eyes and said, “I never wanted to let you go. And, I need you to know that.” She then folded herself into my arms and we both began to cry.
It was just a few years ago, yet I recall the moment like it was yesterday. Mum handed me the original papers of my relinquishment. I had always possessed a copy. But, now I was staring at the actual document. Stained with her tears. The piece of paper that had been signed by my birth mother on the day she gave up her rights to parent me. How I hated that piece of paper.
I’m an adoption writer. As an adoptee and mama-by-adoption, it’s a subject I know well. I also write on topics of faith and forgiveness, gratitude and God.
I’m a Christian. I love mercy. I get up every, single day with the prayer that my life would be an example of justice and of fairness toward others.
My faith doesn’t make me perfect—far from it—and it doesn’t make me immune to mistakes, heartbreaks, or setback. My faith gives me hope and a confidence that through the ups and downs of this life, God is near.
And so, when I took a few precious moments today to sit quietly in prayer, I was deeply moved when my little girl (who I didn’t realize had come into the room) snuggled up on the couch and said these words:
I used to push and run and barely breathe. Life was an uphill climb to an unknown destination. Like a hamster on a wheel, I frantically peddled my feet forward, never really arriving anywhere.
I felt out of touch with myself, short of air, and numb to feel. It wasn’t elegant. I call this stage in my life my “time of roughness.”
I kept my life rough on the surface—jagged and sharp—in order to keep people away, to keep feelings from entering, to keep memories from coming too close.
It’s early morning, here in England, and much is quiet except for the sounds of sheep in the field. I’m in the English countryside, where I was born, and enjoying the soothing melody of home.
It’s been nearly three years since I’ve been back here. Just as it always has, my birth country greets me and meets me with memories: a past and present intertwined with gratitude and grief; my journey as an international adoptee.
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.