Beneath My Breasts: My Thoughts, Three Days Post-Explant

“Michelle, you’re back.” I heard the gentle words of my post-op nurse, Michele, waking me up after my 4-hour procedure, in Cleveland, Ohio. I recall that, in our early morning pre-surgery preparations, she and I had teased each other about the best spelling of our given names. Is a one-L or two-L spelling the best? We laughed and agreed to disagree.

I remember walking into the operating room and being assisted by another amazing nurse, Karla, as she directed me onto the table, positioning my arms in an extended position—outward from my body. The anesthesiologist began placing an IV in my left arm and instructed me to think of a beautiful and peaceful place where I would want to spend the next several hours, while under anesthesia. I told her, immediately, that my peaceful destination would be Butterfly Beach, in Montecito, California. Four hours later, in what seemed like four minutes, I was being nursed back to consciousness and away from my favorite beach, by nurse Michele.

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Like a Bowl of Jasmine Rice, by Julia Gay

More than anything, I want to be able to speak and understand and sing in my mother tongue. I want to be able to write poetry and love letters in Chinese. I asked my mom why I was never able to take lessons growing up and she said that it was because the Chinese classes that were offered were far away, maybe an hour’s drive, and it was inconvenient.

It hurts me that I wasn’t able to learn my birth language out of convenience.

Motherlanded, 2019

Photo credit: Laichee Yang

I once read an article with research suggesting that there is something that activates in adoptee’s brain when they hear their native language that doesn’t activate for other people who didn’t grow up hearing that language as an infant. This means that my mother tongue lives not just in my bones, but also in my brain.

Yet, there has been so much holding me back. Fears like: What if I’m not able to learn Chinese? What if I sound like the white people who try to learn Chinese who don’t understand what tones are? Or what if it’s something that I can’t relearn? Maybe English has taken over so much of my brain I have no more space for that part of myself.

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Belonging/Not Belonging: The Beauty in Between, by Sarah Corley

I stared at the form in front of me, tapping my pen. My legs shook. I cleared my throat and looked around the room. Swirly patterns of blues, greens, and browns surrounded me. Have you ever noticed how all hospitals and waiting rooms use the same neutral palette? As though, earth tones are going to help someone find their zen during a medical crisis. At that moment, the colors weren’t working.

The sterile scent of rubbing alcohol, the HGTV special on mute, the steady stream of indistinguishable chatter at the front desk…none of it helped my nerves. All 12 boxes on the form were still empty. I took a deep breath, and as always, marked every box N/A, then turned the page.

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The Transformational Power of Service

I host a podcast called Greater Than. I started this project to explore how people rise above tremendous challenges and find a greater way of being—discovering a purpose and a calling beyond their wildest dreams.

I’ve learned so much from listening to the stories of others who have gone through the toughest of times and, on the other side of pain, have uncovered the true meaning of life: serving.

When we look around us, as we approach the closing out of 2019, it seems that society has lost its way in the area of service. Greatness is viewed as having more than the next person: more accolades, more money, more strength, more power, more status. Greatness has never been about these things.

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Still Standing: A Conversation on Life as a Trans-Racial Adoptee, with Kevin Hofmann

Kevin Hofmann is the author of the memoir, Growing Up Black In White. He is a trans-racial adoptee who describes his experience as “a unique way to grow up.” His family was part of the second wave of multicultural families created through transracial adoption, in late sixties America, with no role models to guide them.

We begin our conversation with Kevin taking us back to Michigan and the racial temperature into which he was born. He terms it, inside his memoir, as being born in “the middle of a racial hurricane.”

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Adoptees, You are so Much More than Adoption

If you have breath, you have purpose. I love this quote! I don’t know who originally coined it, but I’m glad that they did because it’s true. If you are breathing, you are living, and that means you have a calling. A unique and individual purpose to carry out in this life.

We’re in the last month of 2019 and I want to remind you that you’re here for a reason. Finding that reason is what the journey of living is all about. Our ability to stay hungry on the hunt for our purpose is the challenge. So many things in life can dull our palates.

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5 Things to Remember in Helping Your Adopted Child Through Self-Soothing

I was a self-soother. As a young international adoptee, I would rock myself back and forth on the family room floor trying to re-connect with the rhythms of my birth mother.

It was instinctual. Like a lost animal in the wild, searching for its mother, the rocking was a primal ritual performed by a child looking for her home.

I don’t remember having an awareness of why I would lay there, rocking myself. I just remember that the behavior seemed to calm and comfort me. It made me feel connected to something real inside of me. Something I could not openly express.

Looking back, the rocking gave me a sense of control. When I rocked, I could feel my mum. It was the only time when I could feel her close. Rocking myself offered me certainty.

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Living in the Skin of Adoption

I have my moments. Those times when I wish adoption was not part of my vocabulary. If you’re an adoptee, do you know what I mean?

There are times when I wish that I didn’t speak the language of adoption so fluently. I suppose, like every person of adoption alive today, I have my dark hours of doubt.

I’ve never pretended that I wasn’t adopted. What I have done is lessened this part of my story—skimming over my adoptee chapters. Many times, in the past, I’ve looked the other way…but, the skin still follows. I live in the skin of adoption and I know the challenges of feeling uncomfortable in that skin.

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Adoptee-to-Adoptee: Stop. Recharge. Begin Again.

Can I tell you something? When I first started writing this blogpost, it had a completely different energy. Initially, my thoughts were focused on writing the heavier side of adoption. My words were weighted. My heart felt burdened.

Maybe that’s because I’m feeling A LOT right now: preps for an upcoming surgery, planning for my recovery, and all the “mom feels” you can have when you’ll be away from your kids.

I could hear my self-talk whispering that I was “drained,” “depleted,” and “overdone.” Moving through the many layered emotions of this season has been demanding on my mindset and on my heart. Earlier today, in the middle of spiraling into limiting language, I heard an even louder voice that said—STOP!

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A Letter of Love to My Daughter, on Her Tenth Birthday

You’re almost ten, dear daughter. In two days, we’ll celebrate another year of life. It seems like only yesterday when we were celebrating your coming into our family.

I remember holding you for the first time, in Ethiopia. I recall the feeling like it was yesterday, your tiny body folded into my arms. I couldn’t imagine what I ever did without you.

At the same time that I held you, I was also holding your birth mother in my heart. I wondered where she was, who she was, how she was. Although, I couldn’t answer the questions swirling around in my mind, I promised to never let her go. Your mother of origin—she would always be a part of us.

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