I’d like to share an important truth with you: adoptees have a biological story. They possess a birth history. A biology. The biology of who they are came before adoption was written into the pages of their biography.
Adoptees will feel this biology pulsing within them for all of their lives. No. Matter. What.
Their biology exists. It’s real.
It’s ever-present. It’s a fact.
It’s the genealogy of adoption.
Reflecting on my life over the last 6 years, some major events have taken place—four houses, three dogs, two children, and complete career changes for me and my husband. There is another significant event that also occurred, yet it is not visible or tangible like the others: a thought shift in how I view open adoptions.
When we began the adoption process almost 7 years ago, I wanted this clear-cut, simple, closed adoption. I longed to be matched with a birth mother who would have a baby, hand him or her over to me sweetly swaddled, and walk out of the hospital without wanting any further contact. I thought that would be the ideal adoption. It would be mess-free, drama-free, and easy to navigate. It would just be our little family of three.
In college, I took a literature course on female African American writers. It’s where I was first introduced to the writings of my literary heroes, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker.
Both incredibly strong and resilient women, Angelou and Walker have known the battle of the inner critic.
It was during this time as a college student when I read a quote by Ms Walker that said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
Forgiveness. That word. The F word. Forgive? Never. Not me. Not in this life. Maybe you’ve heard yourself think these thoughts, or even pose these questions out loud: Why would I forgive someone or something that has hurt me so deeply? Why would I forgive someone who chose to leave? How could I ever forgive?
Forgiveness can be difficult, as adoptees. We hold onto hurt. It’s hard to let it go. Yet, forgiveness—I have discovered—is the foundation for a life that is lived in love, and a life that is lived through love.
I remember sitting on the couch crying and feeling utterly defeated. I mean I just wanted my kids to wear those cute matching dresses to church. How did I get here? Not on the couch crying over my spoiled efforts, I mean clearly a dress or two doused in Arby’s sauce may not be salvageable. It was more than that, in that moment. I was just plain exhausted. Just over one solid year ago, I was sitting on the same couch in a different house crying over yet another pregnancy lost. No one could tell me why I lost every baby. They did not have to sit in the silence of my childless home. I just wanted to be a mom. Family is very important to me.
I don’t really know how to write this letter, but I’m going to try. I’m going to try and express in words what I have kept deep inside ever since we first reunited when I was a teen.
Do you remember that day? You were standing in a lilac dress in the middle of a crowd of people at Heathrow airport. I was so young and nervous. Not assured at all of how our reunion would go.
I was terrified inside, really. Scared speechless of being rejected, again. I promised myself that I would protect my heart. That all I wanted was information about my history—our history. I felt that you held the key to all of it: the key to my story and my identity.
1.) Have expectations.
Often, in international adoption, the timing is the biggest misconception adoptive parents are led to believe. I think most countries have good intention for matching a child with prospective parents, and maybe they even have good intentions on making an adoption happen in a relatively timely fashion. However, if you are looking into international adoption and you are wanting to grow your family within months or even a year, stop now, turn around and look the other way. International adoption may not be right for you at this time. I’m not saying you should turn your back on the possibility completely, just make sure you rethink your expectations before pursuing it.
Erin Darling is an illustrator who specializes in developing original animal characters and contemporary storybook scenes. In her own words, and I quote, “The world is changing vibrantly around us, and my art taps into that pulse to capture moments of connection, community, and affection.”
Erin’s images tell stories about who we are as a people and the kind of bright future we can find if we work together and listen to each other. Erin is also the illustrator for my new children’s book, Coco & Olive: The Color of Love, which follows a canine mother and daughter pair who explore the beauty of family diversity and adoption.
When I was a little international adoptee, my parents would take the family traveling and camping through Europe. My dad refurbished an old VW van that he purchased in the United Kingdom. He and my mother would pack it up and off we’d go exploring!
Everywhere we went, it seemed I’d be claimed by the locals there. In Italy, folks would say, “Surely, she’s Italian.” The Greeks would add, “She’s one of us!” I was a European girl growing up in an American family. There’s both bitter and sweet in that statement.
Recently, I was posed a question on Instagram from Naomi Quick @livingout127. She asked, “As an adoptee and adoptive mom, do you ever find it challenging to hold in tandem the beauty and brokenness surrounding adoption?”
The answer is, “Yes, Naomi, I do.”
As an adoptee, it’s been difficult to see a beauty in the broken pieces of my story. It’s been challenging not to identify myself as those broken pieces. Being adopted can be confusing when so many around you say, “just be grateful.” Gratitude is hard to arrive at when it’s surrounded by unspoken grief.