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:
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.
I’ve been a fan of actress Sandra Bullock since forever. And, after hearing her recent interview with Hoda Kotb on the Today Show, I admire and respect her even more. The truths that Ms. Bullock shares on adoption, within this interview, are poignant and important.
I’d like to focus on three of Bullock’s truths and share my thoughts, as a mother-by-adoption myself, in order to help others who might currently be considering adoption or who have begun the journey to adopt.
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.
I used to hide. As an adoptee, I hid from the world. I was so afraid of being rejected that I left before anyone else could leave me first. I was in hiding.
Innocent, yet accused. Named, yet nameless. I had been an orphaned child, marked by abandonment: a mark that seemed to be my permanent identity. And, so I hid.
Many adoptees do the same. A moment in our lives—a decision made by others—hurts us so deeply that we retreat into the shadows. We often live on the outside looking in. Our new families wonder what is wrong, “Why can’t my child trust?” If they only knew that we’re in hiding, afraid of reaching out our arms and opening ourselves to love.
“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.
These were my last few hours in Ethiopia. My daughter’s adoption had been finalized and we were on the way to the airport in Addis Ababa. As an international adoptee myself, I knew that I was not taking my daughter “home.” We were leaving her homeland and I had great respect for the power of that moment. I held a deep reverence for the loss that she was experiencing within her, even though she could not voice it or make sense of it, yet.