I am thrilled to be a guest blogger on The Quilt of Life as I share an excerpt from my forthcoming memoir titled, Transgressions in Rouge. This section is from the part of my childhood when my baby brother entered into our lives.
I should note that, after my adoptive father beat two families into hiding, he died a transgender woman, in 2015.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
“I was so afraid of being seen as imperfect. What happens to imperfect things? They get sent back…”
The above words were my reference of thought for much of my childhood life: you better be perfect or you might get sent back to foster care. I can recall, as a little girl, the panic I felt each time my adoptive mother would leave the house. I was certain that my foster care giver, in England, would come to America to get me while mom was away. Mom would surely have learned what I already knew — that I wasn’t her perfect girl — and I’d be returned to the place from where I came.
My husband and I were in our early thirties, ecstatically married, in love with our life, and very aware of the many ways it would be turned upside down if we had kids. So we debated it. A lot. I’ll spare you that part of the story, but suffice it to say it was a fraught and lengthy process. In contrast, the decision to adopt was nearly instantaneous. We spent years deciding whether or not to have children. We decided to adopt literally in the next breath. We wanted to be parents, and we knew there were lots of kids out there who needed parents, and so instead of making a new one, we decided to have one of those. It seemed like a good match.
I’ve struggled to understand love pretty much my entire life. I think it all stems from the strange juxtaposition that many adoptees are introduced to when we’re told about our adoption or when people comment on it. The juxtaposition goes something like this, “Your biological parents loved you so much, they gave you to someone else who could take better care of you.”