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.
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.
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.
Ever had one of those days when you say these words to yourself: “It’s just all too much!” Do you know what I mean?
That was my day on Monday. My daughter was diagnosed with pink eye and I couldn’t find a sitter to stay with her while I went to the pharmacy. After all, who wants to risk getting pink eye?
So, my girl had to ride along with me to the pharmacist. The wait to fill her eye drop prescription was slow. Like, at a snail’s pace kind of slow. I found myself anxiously counting the seconds on the clock.
I had writing deadlines edging closer and meetings to attend. I was also scheduled, on Monday, for chelation IV treatment for heavy metal poisoning (not something I could reschedule). Back at the house, the family washing machine went on the blink. My daughter’s bunny needed hay, and my younger son needed someone to plan his birthday celebration. On top of that, I was solo-parenting for the week which makes the juggle even more complicated!
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.
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 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.