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!
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.
Why do I write so transparently about the adoptee experience?
Because I know that there are other adoptees in the world, right now, who feel isolated and are frustrated by this sense of isolation. That’s not to say that these same adoptees are not loved and cherished by their adoptive families, it’s just that adoption—for the adoptee—can feel lonely.
Who do you talk to? Where do you turn? How do you grab hold of emotions and questions that you’ve stuffed way down inside of you and bring them up to the light? Will you still be loved, included, if you do?
Fear of rejection is real for the adoptee. Often, our initial reaction to this fear is to push with all of our might away from the rawest parts of ourselves. Pushing is a protective mechanism for the person of adoption.
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.
It’s 4 am and I can’t sleep. Tomorrow, our family will go back on the list. Tomorrow, or a day soon after, I will become a mom to a child that I’ve never met. I’ve been here before, tossing and turning, listing in my mind all the things I would be doing to prepare my home for a child if I had the luxury of knowing their age, gender, clothing size, favorite breakfast food…I’ve spent sleepless nights like this before every new placement.
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.
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.
Adoption, as both an international adoptee and mom-by-international adoption, has framed so much of how I see the world around me. This framing has architected within me a deep and profound compassion and empathy for those who hurt and are alone. When I was a kid, I remember that I’d be completely shattered at the thought of an animal who was lost and afraid. Pictures of orphaned children left me trembling in tears. Even my plushy stuffed toys, in my earliest of beliefs, had feelings and emotions that needed protecting.
Courtney Rae arrived at my home, clutching a bag of toys and clothes. Her eyes darted around the room as she took in her new surroundings. Courtney Rae looked at her relinquishing foster mother, and then focused her eyes on me. Her new foster/pre-adoption mother. Standing firm, she angrily declared, “I hate you. You stink and this house stinks too!”
Our first night together was consumed with a little girl’s rage as Rae kicked the walls and screamed, “I don’t have any mama!” Exhausted and drenched in perspiration, she finally fell asleep. It was at this point that I approached her and began stroking her head and touching her fingers and toes, in awe. I fought back tears of sorrow as she, even in a deep sleep, clutched her jaw and tightened her face.