Transforming the Adoptee Birthday

I'm Michelle!

I've learned that there is power when we share our story: scars, flaws, and all. It's within the imperfections where we find freedom. My blog is dedicated to this belief! 

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I wrote a blogpost several months ago titled Birthdays Don’t Have to Hurt. And, I want to revisit what I shared within that post as I approach my own birthday, January 14. I’ve had a challenging relationship with this date on the calendar. In the past, I’d see January approaching and feel a sick sensation take root in my tummy.

I’d feel agitated and anxious. Angry, even. Please just don’t mention the day. I’d think to myself. Just let it be over, make it go away. All I wanted to do was to ignore my birthday.

It’s such a state of suffering to live in. I want to help adoptees take the stress out of what can be a day of distress—to find a way to transform their day from distressing to freeing.

As an adoptee empowerment life coach, I often find myself guiding adult adoptees through the tumultuous waters that surround their relationship with their birthday.

I’ve heard adoptees say, “I dread my birthday!” Or, “My birthday is coming up and I want to hide until it’s over.”

You see, birthdays for adoptees are often reminders of the loss that happened in their life. The feeling of loss is so strong that it can be difficult to know how to maneuver through it. Adoptees can feel stuck in this feeling, resulting in a tendency to avoid celebrating—or even mentioning—the day they came into the world.

In the adoptee’s mind, their birthday can become an annual day of mourning. This was exactly how I viewed January 14th for a very long time.

It was a day that found me showing up in my life far from authentic. I’d put on the facade of the happy birthday girl, while deep down inside I wanted to disappear—to flee from the festivities, no matter how big or how small.

Year in and year out, I lived a life in complete fear of my birthday. I feared feeling the emotions of grief and loss that would surely arise. Emotions I kept hidden away as I secretly worried that I’d be rejected if these feelings were openly expressed.

Over time, though, it became clear that this dread over my birthday was causing profound personal pain. I saw myself dreading, not just my day of birth, but also my entire life. It was exhausting because the pain of my internal struggle was constant and daily.

I needed to find a path to gently welcome myself into the life I’d been given. To see myself as worthy of that life and to find a way to celebrate it—in my own way.

In other words, I needed to transform my relationship with my birthday and the meaning I had assigned to it.

My desire to transform led me to the knowledge that I had the power to choose how I wanted to experience my birthday. I asked myself these two questions: 1) What has been my focus on past birthdays? 2) What do I desire to be my focus going forward?

The answers to these questions, for me, were:

Past focus: loss

Future focus: love

I’ve shared my belief that “where focus goes, energy flows,” and this belief really cannot be overstated. If we, as adoptees, focus only on the loss within our story—then the energy of loss will follow us. If we can, instead, begin to focus on love—the energy of love will find us on our birthday and on every day.

What we focus on becomes the reality that we live. I want to help you be a good steward of your focused thoughts and beliefs because birthdays don’t have to hurt. You don’t deserve that, dear adoptee. You deserve love, joy and fulfillment. These are the gifts you have the ability to give yourself.

Set the intent for love and for a love-filled birthday. You will receive a loving response.

Adoptees have experienced a tremendous amount of loss. It’s so important that this loss be acknowledged along the journey of healing. I understand the loss, intimately. However, we don’t have to stay stuck in the loss because when we do, we miss out on life. I don’t want you to miss out on your life!

Here are the steps I take, today, when my birthday is approaching. I hope that one, if not all, of these steps can assist you in transforming the relationship you currently have with your birthday into a day that feels supportive and honoring of your story and journey.

  1. Decide the identity that will escort you into your day. In other words, who do you want to be? Choose your identity well as you approach your birthday. As my birthday approaches this year, I choose the identity of an open-hearted and optimistic birthday girl. I want to stay open to what my birthday will show me and teach me about myself. I want to be optimistic that joy is awaiting me on my special day.
  2. Go tender on yourself. Don’t judge your feelings. Don’t question what’s real and coming up for you. Just allow yourself to be with those feelings and stay curious as to what they’re here to reveal to you. Witness those feelings. Don’t hide from them.
  3. Forgive yourself. You can speak the following statement of forgiveness out loud (or in a quiet prayer): I forgive myself for the times when I wanted to avoid celebrating this big and beautiful life I’ve been given. I know that this avoidance was working to protect me. I’m grateful for that, but today I choose to be fully present for my birthday and my life. I have the power to choose.
  4. Feel the connections. Allow yourself to feel and honor the connections that you sense as you move closer to your birthday. For example, I allow myself to feel the connection with my bio mother in a way that is life-affirming and promising for me. I’m not here to please anyone through ignoring this connection. I will be a warrior for my truth and my bio family is part of my truth.
  5. Celebrate the lessons. Light a candle in honor of your journey. Place your hands over your heart and feel. Feel it all because all of it is you and all of it is yours. Take ownership of your birthday!
  6. Focus on what you desire. Love yourself enough to focus on what it is that you desire for your birthday. Let go of anything that does not show up in service of your highest purpose and for the intention you hold for your special day.

You can give yourself permission to explore your birthday in new and transformative ways. Your special day doesn’t have to hurt. It doesn’t have to be a difficult day. Let it be a delicious one and you decide what flavors you want to layer in. Make your birthday what it is—yours!

It’s your day.

Share your vision for your birthday with those who will respect your wishes. This is so important. Your wishes should be honored. Those who love you will understand. It’s important that you are transparent about what you want on your special day.

And, I’ll say to you the same words that I say to myself on my birthday, now: I’m so glad you were born.

Say this out loud. Say it louder and louder. Never stop! Step into your birthday empowered, confident and unapologetic. We can do this with elegance! It’s time, dear adoptee, to be free … don’t you agree?

Finally, if you desire support as your birthday approaches, please reach out to me and schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching conversation. You’ll find the link in several areas on my website. I’m here for you.

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Hi, I'm Michelle.
Your BFF + New Empowerment Coach.

I don't hold anything back anymore. I've learned that there is power when we share our story: scars, flaws, and all. It's within the imperfections where we find freedom. My life's work is dedicated to this belief! 

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Coco & Olive: The Color of Love is the recipient of the 2019 Royal Dragonfly Award for excellence in children's literature. With playful canine characters and a rainbow of colors, the book explores adoption and family diversity. We believe it's never too early to talk about adoption and inclusion. (photo: @leahfrisosky)

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